The history of geriatric medicine in the UK is well documented and as a region we have our own rich origins that have contributed to the evolution of the specialty.
One such pioneer is John Brocklehurst CBE (1924-2013); born in Liverpool, educated in Glasgow, ripened in Canada and established in Manchester. As a professor in geriatric medicine at Manchester University in 1970 he founded the unit ‘Biological Ageing Research’ – an internationally renowned department. He was an avid proponent of improving the quality of care provided to the older people. His particular revolution in the advancement of geriatric medicine was his contribution to our understanding of urinary and faecal incontinence in older people which formed the basis of his thesis for which he was honoured with the ‘Bellahouston medal’ in 1950. A topic unglamourous but how crucial to enhancing our care of older people by allowing us to understand the physiology of bladder function in the ageing (1). He also boasts a fine collection of authorships including ‘Brocklehurst’s Textbook of Geriatrics and Gerontology’ – a timeless text that retains its eminence in the field to this day as well as penning numerous other distinguished texts.
Professor Brocklehurst served as president of the British Geriatrics Society (BGS) between 1984-1986 and his devotion to the discipline of geriatric medicine was aptly summarised in his own words; “Looking back, I cannot imagine any other field of medicine which I would have had greater satisfaction in, nor in which the opportunities for pioneering and development could have been greater.” (2). He completed his tenure with a leading role at the Royal College of Physicians Research Unit and sadly died of Prostate Cancer in 2013.
Another prominent geriatrician hailing from Manchester was Dr James Leeming (1927-2021); born, bred and educated in the this very city and appointed as Consultant Geriatrician at Bolton Hospital in 1963 (3). He was most noted for his opposition to the then evolving ideation of ‘progressive patient care’ (PPC) which in essence involved moving patients from ward to ward as their treatment journey progressed; the merits of which he doubted.
He moved onto the Manchester Royal Infirmary where he worked with Professor Brocklehurst later being appointed as a medical advisor on the ‘care of the elderly’ course at the Open University. He served as a secretary for the BGS between 1976-1978 claiming the Society’s Founder’s medal – the society’s highest honour for distinguished service in 1996 (3).
Professor Arup Banerjee became the first South Asian president of the BGS in 1996 - hailing from Calcutta, India; he took up a consultant post at Bolton Hospital in 1973. He was instrumental in setting up vital services within the region whilst contributing to teaching and research. He held many prestigious positions throughout his tenure besides his BGS presidency including being appointed the vice- chair and president of Manchester Medical Society, medical director of Bolton NHS trust and being awarded an honorary doctorate and professorship by Bolton University all while collecting an OBE along the way before his retirement in 1999. (4)
As we venture forwards in our goal to evolve and develop in the field, the Manchester Institute for Collaborate Research on Ageing (MICRA) is a nationally renowned and internationally recognised institution for being at the forefront of innovative and collaborative research into the multifaceted dimensions of ageing. Numerous geriatricians past and present have contributed and continue to contribute to vital research which will shape the future of generations to come.
We scratch only the surface. The North West of England can proudly claim to be a thriving force in the field of geriatric medicine; a path paved by the aforementioned and those unsung. We arrive to the modern age where the region houses numerous dedicated geriatricians and health and social care professionals developing and improving vital healthcare services following in the esteemed footsteps of those before, no doubt scribing their own history for biographers to come.
- Tallis R. John Charles Brocklehurst. Age and Ageing. 2013 Nov 1;42(6):666–666.
- Stafford N. John Brocklehurst. BMJ. 2013 Aug 27;347:f5204.
- BGS Newsletter Feb Mar 2021 web_0.pdf [Internet]. [cited 2022 Apr 24]. Available from: https://www.hee.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/documents/BGS%20Newsletter%20Feb%20Mar%202021%20web_0.pdf
- Professor Arup Banerjee [Internet]. British Geriatrics Society. [cited 2022 Apr 24]. Available from: https://www.bgs.org.uk/professor-arup-banerjee