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The Great Health Clinic – making Islington feel healthier for 70 years

PUBLISHED: 10:53 15 September 2017

The Great Health Clinic on St Paul's Road celebrated its 70th brithday this week. Picture: Polly Hancock

The Great Health Clinic on St Paul's Road celebrated its 70th brithday this week. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Islington was a very different place when Ben Sclaire opened what is now the Great Health Clinic in Essex Road.

Mayor of Islington Cllr Una O'Halloran celebrates the 70th Anniversary of The Great Health Clinic on St Paul's Road with practitioners from left Ana Gomez, Natalie Simpkin, Arto Kylmanen, Carlos Galvis Ocampo, and Joseph Gaffin. Picture: Polly Hancock Mayor of Islington Cllr Una O'Halloran celebrates the 70th Anniversary of The Great Health Clinic on St Paul's Road with practitioners from left Ana Gomez, Natalie Simpkin, Arto Kylmanen, Carlos Galvis Ocampo, and Joseph Gaffin. Picture: Polly Hancock

Prisoners were being executed at Pentonville, the rebuilding of the war-damaged borough had begun – and podiatry was still called chiropody.

The year was 1947, and, 70 years on, the practice is still going strong thanks to the vision of the Sclaires and later Kay Lawman and her family.

At the clinic, which was situated at the corner of Balls Pond Road, Mr Sclaire, a chiropodist, treated patients while his wife Rita ran the business.

After building up a client base the family relocated to a bigger space further along Essex Road in the late 1950s.

Kay Lawman in the 1990s. Picture: Natalie Simpkin Kay Lawman in the 1990s. Picture: Natalie Simpkin

In the early 1970s, Ben and Rita’s two children joined as chiropodists and the family again moved to a new premises, this time in St Paul’s Road, where it remains today.

Recognising the need to expand their service, the Sclaires decided to take on Kay in 1994 – something of a bold decision at the time.

Kay was a chartered physiotherapist – and physiotherapy was not an established form of treatment yet.

“It wasn’t recognised,” said her daughter Natalie Simpkin, who took over the running of the practice after the death of her mother in 2010.

Kay at the London Marathon in 2001, where she was working as a physio on the finish line. Picture: Natalie Simpkin Kay at the London Marathon in 2001, where she was working as a physio on the finish line. Picture: Natalie Simpkin

“GPs didn’t recognise physiotherapy and wouldn’t refer people for it.

“It was seen as a new, ‘alternative’ treatment.

“Before that she used to see people at home. I remember as a child patients would come to the house, and she would go to their homes.

“It was a lot of local people – some of them still go there now.”

As physiotherapy became a more recognised treatment, patients would come from further afield to the clinic, though it always retained a local core.

“My mum would often bring me here as a child,” Natalie recalled. “She would know everyone, even people she didn’t treat. She was the face of the business.”

Kay was a well-loved figure in the community and eventually took over the business in 2003, incorporating the chiropody and podiatry clinic into the Great Health Company which she managed and owned.

It thrived as a top multi-disciplinary service where patients from the nearby Marquess Estate would be waiting in line with top sports stars and dancers.

After Kay’s death, Martin Simpkin and her children Natalie and James took the reins and carried on her good work.

It became The Great Health Clinic in October 2010, and continues to grow, with a list of services that now includes osteopathy, sports massage, pilates and neuro-linguistic programming.

To celebrate turning 70, the clinic hosted a birthday party for staff and customers on Tuesday night, where Natalie made a champagne toast – presumably to good health.

Islington mayor Cllr Una O’Halloran was at the party to show her support for the local business, and praised staff for staying ahead of the game for so long.

Speaking after the event, she said: “The Great Health Clinic is one of the many inspiring success stories of the borough, treating local people from all backgrounds as well as injured sports people and dancers.

“It was great to see the enthusiasm for cutting-edge healthcare.

“It’s a business that hasn’t forgotten its humble roots as a family practice, either.

“I really enjoyed meeting the team and helping them celebrate – 70 years is a great achievement and a historic milestone.”

Anyone who wants to check out the clinic’s services can do so at greathealthco.com.

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