A witness seminar: the development of old age psychiatry in Britain, 1960–1989. Themes, lessons and highlights


  • Institution at which research was conducted: Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Glasgow.



To create a record of the development of old age psychiatry in Britain, as seen through the eyes of some of the people who participated in building it, from the earliest days until it was officially recognised as a specialty by the Department of Health in 1989.


Group reminiscences and discussions in the format of a witness seminar which was audio-recorded and transcribed. Witnesses also provided written biographical information.


The annotated full record created at the seminar is available on line. This paper reflecting themes, lessons and highlights has been derived from it.


Early old age psychiatrists often encountered opposition and incredulity from other health care professionals and managers. However, their experiences were demonstrating just how much could be achieved in improving the lives of older mentally ill people. They conveyed their enthusiasm for their work in both clinical and university settings. Clinical creativity, support when working in relative professional isolation, and dealing with opposition benefited from both the development of the Group for the Psychiatry of Old Age at the Royal College of Psychiatrists and from close links with geriatric medicine. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.