A “marvellous” GP and friend to the homeless has retired after 32 years’ service.
Some 200 people young and old attended John Blechyndem’s leaving party at the Southgate Medical Group on Thursday (August 27).
Dr Blechyndem, former senior partner at the surgery in Brighton Road, said: “The main achievements really have been leading a very friendly surgery which has been very accessible to patients.
“We have always been friendly with one another and we have never fallen out.
“I would like to thank my practice manager Nicky Shearwood for her support and encouragement over the years and putting on today’s event and my wife [Angela] who has supported me behind the scenes.”
Dr Blechyndem officially retired when he turned 60 on Sunday - the age of retirement for NHS GPs.
He was a visiting doctor at Open House homeless shelter in Three Bridges and volunteered for homeless charity The Easter Team for more than 10 years.
Residents got “much better” access to medicine after he opened a medical room in the shelter.
Dr Blechyndem said: “If they wanted repeat prescriptions they would have to go to casualty or a local GP service where they weren’t very welcome.”
He led a team which cooked hot lunches for the homeless once a month at St Barnabas Church in Pound Hill.
Dr Blechyndem, who “just fitted it” into his schedule, said: “I became one of their friends, more than just a doctor.
“It was very rewarding.”
He started a four-year counselling degree in 2013 and hoped to be a counsellor in Crawley.
Patients and staff at the party paid tribute to the “kind” man with a “wicked” sense of humour.
Linda Hurrell, lead practice nurse, who celebrated her 25th anniversary working at the surgery this month, said: “He is more than a boss, he’s a friend.
“He’s got a wicked sense of humour, we just love him so much.”
Linda, of Wallage Lane, Crawley Down, became the longest-serving member of staff at the surgery.
Rita Kemp, 74, of Southgate Drive, Southgate, said: “We could just call him up at any time.
“He listens to you - you feel he’s talking to you as a person, it’s marvellous.”
Dr Blechyndem helped fast-track Rita’s hospital appointments after he diagnosed her cataracts.
The operations restored her sight in both her eyes last year.
Rita, who reads four or five books per month, said: “It’s my life, reading.
“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be able to see.”