AN ‘astonishing’ married couple who are both GPs and work at the same health centre have dedicated nearly a century in service to a health service between them.

Their contributions are being honoured as Audley Health Centre in Blackburn celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Dr Mridul Kumar Datta has spent 56 years working in the NHS and 50 years as a GP and Dr Saroj Datta has spent 55 years in the NHS and 46 years in general practice.

The 81-year-olds came to the UK in 1965 and married at Blackburn Register Office in 1966 having both qualified from the same medical school in Calcutta.

Dr Mridul was following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather and grandfather who had trained at the same facility. The medical school had been built by the British in 1853 and was said to be the first of its kind in Asia.

The couple have three children, one of whom also works as a doctor, and seven grandchildren.

They have told of their pride at assisting the local community for so many years.

Dr Mridul said: “I left my specialist job and started my general practice single-handedly in Blackburn at 269 Accrington Road.

“I expanded the size of the practice and moved to Audley Health Centre in 1974.

“My wife has worked with me since 1975 and has been supportive of all my activities and helped with the expansion of the practice.

“I have tried my best to give total aid and house care to all my patients.”

Dr Mridul went on to become a GP trainer and chairman for 10 years of Our Medical Services, an organisation which covers out-of-hours calls in Blackburn, Darwen and Accrington.

He was also a member of the Blackburn Maternity Liaison for 35 years and has been involved with the Primary Health Care Team for many years.

He has trained and mentored many new GPs, pharmacists and has also worked as a GP appraiser for several years.

Dr Mridul said: “We started a patient participation group in 2004 and it was the first of its kind in this district. Our patients’ voice is heard and changes are made where possible.”

Dr Mridul said he would like to see his practice run holistically when he retires. Already the surgery offers immunisation, has a baby-development clinic and conducts all types of minor operations and joint injections.

Dr Saroj joined the NHS working at Blackburn Royal Infirmary and then in March 1975 joined her husband at Audley Health Centre.

She said: “We have enjoyed ourselves and have tried to give our best even when we went through all the changes in the NHS and personal circumstances.

“We are grateful to all the staff past and present for their support and our patients who have stuck with us. Some of whom have been with us for over four generations!

“It seems hard to believe that as a team we have served the NHS for nearly a century.”

Practice manager Rosemary Emmonds said: “I have been working for the ‘Dr Dattas’ now for 18 years and they have been great.

“Patient care is their main concern which shows in the practice results - attaining 100% each year for national and local targets. With a CCG rating of ‘good’.”

Dr Mark Dziobon, GP and medical director for the Pennine Lancashire CCGs, said: “Drs Mridul and Saroj Datta have served the community and their patients from for a combined 96 years in general practice which is an astonishing commitment and achievement.

“They are respected and well regarded by GPs and primary care teams in the area and personally having seen them in action, I would say that they are kind, skilled and generous of their time, energy and expertise.

“GP practices are the foundation of the NHS, and colleagues like Drs Mridul and Saroj Datta ensure that this foundation is solid, high quality and long lasting.

“I congratulate and thank them.”