Douglas Anthony Spencer 2006
Born in Leeds, Douglas trained at Edinburgh but moved back to his beloved Yorkshire to start his hospital career. After a period of national service he trained in psychiatry, eventually specialising in learning difficulties.
In June 1965, aged 34, he was appointed consultant at Meanwood Park Hospital, Leeds, later becoming medical director at Westwood, Todmorden, and Castleberg Hospitals from 1966.
His professional interests covered all aspects of mental handicap, and he published about 500 papers and letters.
He was a foundation member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1971 and was elected fellow in 1982. He was appointed senior clinical lecturer at Leeds University in 1984.
After retirement at 65 from his full time post he continued to work part time at Meanwood in the resettlement of patients until the hospital closed in May 1997.As the hospitals for mental handicap became scheduled for closure he took a special interest in personally recording details of the histories of the local hospitals and organisations, copies of which he donated to selected libraries.
He moved to Northampton to be near his family. He remained a medical member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal until retiring fully in 2003.
He was a gentle, dignified family man and a keen gardener He leaves a wife, Ann; two daughters; and four granddaughters.
Former consultant psychiatrist Leeds (b 1931; qualified Edinburgh 1956; Fellow of The Royal College Of Psychiatrists ), Died from renal cancer on 11 July 2006.
Dr Spencer Was A Prolific Writer, Upon his Retirement He Considered The Time Opportune To Fullfill A Duty, An Obligation And A Responsibility To Compile Some Record Of What Had Been Done At Meanwood Park Hospital.
Speech for the retirement of Dr Douglas Spencer
Douglas Anthony Spencer was born on 28th September 1931. He attended school in Otley and then went to Edinburgh to attend medical school. He came back to Harrogate and District General Hospital as House Surgeon and House Physician in 1956 and then did 2 years National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He then attended the Psychiatric Services within Stanley Royd and St James’ before joining Meanwood Park Hospital as a Consultant Psychiatrist in 1965.
In 1966 he went to the new Westwood Hospital as Medical Director, returning to Meanwood Park Hospital some 4 years later, in 1970. He has remained Consultant Psychiatrist in Meanwood Park Hospital from 1970 until 1996.
Douglas Spencer is a Yorkshire man. He is a true Yorkshire man because he has not only spent his life in Yorkshire, but he was born in Yorkshire. The only length of time he has spent outside of Yorkshire has been that of his early medical training in Scotland. Occasionally, even today Dr Spencer suggests that he has left Yorkshire and has offered evidence of postcards from Cornwall and from the Isle of Skye and cakes, biscuits and sweets from local manufacturers of other counties he has claimed to visit. These claims are to be treated with some misgivings because it is well known that true Yorkshire men do not like leaving Yorkshire.
Douglas Spencer has spent a lifetime in the care of learning disabled people and in particular in the supervision of Meanwood Park Hospital.
He has now arrived at the age of 65 and we must praise him for having survived this arduous obstacle course. He has withstood all the threats and all the promises which have been made by various administrations throughout his time. For a long time now, changes in government have been outpaced by the rapid changes in management and administrative systems.
Ethical and moral movements have come and gone and the hospital itself has been in the process of closure for 20 years. Through it all Douglas Spencer has remained reliable, he is a survivor of it all and we must congratulate him for that, and what is more, as far as I know and as far as I can see, he is as fit as flea and always ready with a smile and a greeting. We who remain in the service for learning disabled people will undoubtedly miss him. He has remained a steadfast anchor for an otherwise drifting vessel, but those who are left will do their best to provide and maintain a similar and improving level of service, and we hope that Douglas and his wife will enjoy and interesting, fruitful and well deserved retirement.
Thank you very much indeed.
Dr Spencer’s response
Thank you Stephen (Read), John (Oldham) and Faith (Hewitt) for your kind words.
Thank you to the Trust for the generous spread.
Thank you for the splendid gifts, the cards and good wishes we have received.
Thank you all, for coming her at 4pm on Friday afternoon, the most dangerous hour of the week for emergencies to join Ann and me in what has to be for me a celebration of gratitude for over 40 years in medical work, luckily without time off for serious illness and for over a third of a century in what is now called Learning Disability.
When I was a medical student in Edinburgh it was Mental Deficiency, on which Dr Bailey of Gogarburn Hospital gave five lectures and a demonstration in which he made occasional mention of a benighted land to the south he called “Ngland”!
My first visit to Meanwood Park Hospital was in April 1961 for the Diploma in Psychological Medicine course with when Dr Wilson advised us to park our various heap or ruins a distance out from the Mansion because of the risk of falling masonry from the parapets!
After the DPM I was persuaded by Dr Brian Ward, the Assistant Senior Medical Officer with Leeds Regional Hospital Board, to enter ‘Mental Sub normality’, as it had become.
The region at that time had three Consultants for 26 hospitals with 4000 beds; the ‘norm’ was 1.3 beds per 1000 of the population, virtually all full of long stay patients. In archived records is a letter from region to a local hospital which ended with ‘shall be grateful if you can move heaven and earth to admit this patient’. The more it changes the more it stays the same!
In 1963 there were over 800 patients at Meanwood Park Hospital at a cost of £8.00 per patient per week. Over 200 more patients were at Oulton Hall Hospital which was described, in the Yorkshire vernacular, as ‘a reight muck ‘oil’. Now it is a 5 star De Vere Hotel, to show what 20 million pounds can do!
I went to meet Dr John Newcombe at Whixley Hospital, the outcome of which was that I visited there for 17 years. Whixley provided for what were then called ‘sub normal psychopaths’, now people with challenging behaviour and special needs.
I was fortunate to come into mental sub normality at a time of mission, vision and renaissance, with innovations that would become bench marks of quality services in the future.
The years at Meanwood Park Hospital provided a fund of stories and anecdotes. There was the patient who said “You won’t go away from here will you, Dr Spencer?”. With her brow furrowed in thought she added “We might get somebody worse”. I knew the feeling.
Over the years there has accumulated at Meanwood Park Hospital a variety of official publications and reports, information about medical conditions and topics in daily practice, drugs and records or hospitals and services. It would be vandalism to destroy this irreplaceable ‘Trust Silver’ material which reflects the development of Learning Disability in the twentieth century. As this material is extant and with redundant cards to divide it up, the only cost of keeping it is the space of three cabinets at Crooked Acres Lodge where it is available for use in daily work and projects.
Recently people going to Meanwood Park Hospital have said that what they missed about MPH was that it was a happy and friendly place. Memories of that ethos will live on and speak long after the buildings are no more. What greater tribute could any place deserve or need?
Certainly Ann and I will always be thankful for the happy connection with MPH that people here have given us, and for the cordial association we have enjoyed with psychiatry in West Yorkshire and life in the National Health Service.