Dr James Andrews (1924-2014)

Dr James David Bruyn Andrews MD, DPH, was born on 10th February 1924. 

His father was an author, his mother a schoolteacher, while two great uncles were doctors. He was educated at Westminster School and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. He qualified in 1949, passed the MD examination in 1952 and later the DPH. He was Senior Hospital Medical Officer in Coventry in 1957, where he described the local current geriatric service for the Hospital Board.  Although he had eliminated the waiting list, some hospital beds were still occupied by inpatients who did not require a hospital bed.  He pressed for better accommodation for the paramedical staff, a laundry service for the incontinent and increased Part III housing. The following year he was appointed consultant geriatrician at St. Tydfil’s Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil. In 1960, he succeeded Marjory Warren at the West Middlesex Hospital following her accidental death. 

He continued the development of the West Middlesex Hospital geriatric unit. The outpatient department thrived, the day hospital flourished and the number of his junior medical staff increased.  In 1966, he admitted 749 patients, mostly from general practitioners. The majority were discharged and only 9 per cent became long-stay. He was well aware of the problems posed by mentally disturbed patients on wards or in the community and was a member of the Regional group, which studied that challenge. No doubt he was involved when Bruce Archer’s research team, which included the celebrated Doreen Norton in a major advisory role, was assessing beds and ward equipment at the West Middlesex hospital. The work of this team culminated in the design of the renowned King’s Fund hospital bed in 1967. In 1969, he invited those attending the BGS Autumn meeting in London to visit the day hospital before the conference, to see the newly designed beds and other equipment.  Following the demonstration, there was discussion on haematological problems and lunch at the nearby ‘London Apprentice’!  

Dr Andrews wrote papers relating to general and specific aspects of elderly patient care, in particular ward equipment, pressure mattresses and beds including a rather critical account of the recently launched King’s Fund bed. He co-authored an erudite, extensively researched article on hereditary coproporphyria, which affected his family. He followed Norman Exton-Smith as clinical editor of Gerontologia Clinica, which published an article by the controversial Professor Ana Aslan about the use of procaine (Gerovital, GH3) in delaying the onset of old age. When the journal ceased publication, he became editor of Gerontology. He was meticulous in checking authors’ references and could be seen, dressed in colourful clothing, prowling the journal/book shelves in the Royal Society of Medicine. 

 He lived for many years in a Thames side bungalow built on piles, which prevented it being flooded during recent deluges up river. He recalled that he had bought the building in 1960 for £3,000! Ill health clouded his later years, which required hospital visits and the support of a home help. He was married but later divorced: there were no children. In 1997, the BGS awarded him its Jubilee medal.  He died at home on 2nd November 2014. 

Michael Denham
Past BGS President and currently BGS archivist and historian