Her Majesty's own GP on working with witch doctors, taking the holistic approach to patients, and how, after a personal tragedy, he's coping with life as a single father.
Dr Tim Evans is a busy man. He is the Queen's GP – Apothecary to Her Majesty and the Royal Household, to be precise – and when we first meet he has come straight from Buckingham Palace, where he has a surgery tending not just to our sovereign but all of her staff. He is bouncy, keen, fantastically calm, his tranquility hiding what must be some of the most fascinating medical secrets on the planet – but of course the 57-year-old is extremely discreet.
On top of his work commitments he is a single father to Wilf, 11, and Poppy, who is about to turn 10. His wife, Annabel, died at the end of 2008, after a long illness. She had "a very aggressive breast cancer" and was dead within five years of her diagnosis, which took place when Poppy was just 11 months old and Annabel was pregnant with their third child. "It wasn't on the radar," he says. "We weren't even thinking about breast cancer and terminal disease. Perhaps you do take the eye off the ball when you're in baby mode. Although in the back of her head she probably knew that she was 38 and that was the age at which her mother got breast cancer. But we were going for our third child, and she was pregnant, and then she discovered the lump." Annabel miscarried soon after, and Dr Evans seems almost grateful for that. "Otherwise she would never have terminated the pregnancy, and she would have died very quickly."
He is to the point about what happened. The situation is "horrible", he says, "but I've got two children and they are fantastic and the most important thing for me is to be able to see them."
Dr Evans is not your average GP, scribbling out prescriptions in a harassed manner, desperate to get each patient out through the door. Unlike traditional doctors, he is passionate about complementary therapies, which made him a controversial choice when he was appointed as the Queen's doctor eight years ago – although Her Majesty is believed to be a fan of complementary therapies. He has had colonic hydrotherapy ("it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be"), raves about acupuncture (it has almost completely got rid of his hay fever) and thinks osteopathy is great. "But there's not a lot of evidence behind homeopathy, which is a shame."
He says he takes a "holistic approach" to things and goes in for "functional medicine, where we look at the patient, not the illness – it is about prevention, not cure. I have always been an integrated doctor, even when I didn't realise it."