Professor Linford Rees

Psychiatrist who brought his subject into the mainstream
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The Independent Online
William Linford Llewelyn Rees, psychiatrist and physician: born Burry Port, Carmarthenshire 24 October 1914; Consultant Physician, Bethlem Royal Hospital and Maudsley Hospital 1954-66; Recognised Clinical Teacher in Mental Diseases, Institute of Psychiatry, London University 1956-78; Chairman, Research and Clinical Section, Royal Medico-Psychological Association 1957-63; President, Society for Psychosomatic Research 1957-58; Lecturer in Psychological Medicine, St Bartholomew's Medical College 1958-66, Professor of Psychiatry 1966-80 (Emeritus); Treasurer, World Psychiatric Association 1966-78; President, Royal College of Psychiatrists 1975-78; President, BMA 1978-79; CBE 1978; Medical Director, Charter Clinic 1980-89; Consulting Physician, St Bartholomew's Hospital 1981-2004; Director and Medical Adviser, Huntercombe Manor Hospital 1989-2004, President 1992-2004; married 1940 Catherine Thomas (died 1993; two sons, two

William Linford Llewelyn Rees, psychiatrist and physician: born Burry Port, Carmarthenshire 24 October 1914; Consultant Physician, Bethlem Royal Hospital and Maudsley Hospital 1954-66; Recognised Clinical Teacher in Mental Diseases, Institute of Psychiatry, London University 1956-78; Chairman, Research and Clinical Section, Royal Medico-Psychological Association 1957-63; President, Society for Psychosomatic Research 1957-58; Lecturer in Psychological Medicine, St Bartholomew's Medical College 1958-66, Professor of Psychiatry 1966-80 (Emeritus); Treasurer, World Psychiatric Association 1966-78; President, Royal College of Psychiatrists 1975-78; President, BMA 1978-79; CBE 1978; Medical Director, Charter Clinic 1980-89; Consulting Physician, St Bartholomew's Hospital 1981-2004; Director and Medical Adviser, Huntercombe Manor Hospital 1989-2004, President 1992-2004; married 1940 Catherine Thomas (died 1993; two sons, two daughters); died Purley, Surrey 29 July 2004.

Linford Rees was a distinguished physician who made a major contribution to the field of psychiatry during the second half of the 20th century. Behind this simple statement lies a career of study, clinical practice, research, teaching and of great achievement.

Operating at a time when psychiatry was changing as never before, Rees was an advocate of the biopsychosocial model of mental illness, acknowledging from the beginning the importance of evidence-based care. He was also acutely aware of the social implications of psychiatric illness and contributed to its destigmatisation by encouraging the move away from institutional care in asylums to care of the mentally ill in a general hospital setting, with closer links to primary care - thus anticipating the later trend towards community care. In caring for his patients, he was ever conscious of the need to safeguard their rights while protecting them from the consequences of their illness.

Rees was born in Burry Port, a coal port to the west of Llanelli, at the start of the First World War. His father was a schoolteacher, his grandfather ran tug-boats. Linford was educated at Llanelli Grammar School and became a medical student at the Welsh National School of Medicine, where he won various prizes and scholarships - early signs of his future greatness.

Despite the many opportunities available to him, Rees was always interested in mental health and psychiatry even though this was not, in those pre-Second World War years, a high-profile speciality. In 1938 he became Assistant Medical Officer at Worcester City and County Mental Hospital, Powick, where he was in charge of the male side of the hospital, which included 800 chronic patients. His duties were extraordinarily wide-ranging by today's standards, including preparation of medication for the whole hospital when the pharmacist was absent, carrying out post-mortem examinations and participating in the patients' dances. Nevertheless, he found time to examine all of his 800 chronic patients, finding a number of previously undiagnosed cases of syphilitic general paresis among them.

His next step was to study for the Diploma in Psychological Medicine at the Maudsley Hospital and he was then appointed to Mill Hill Emergency Hospital, the wartime Maudsley, which had been relocated to Mill Hill School, on the north London outskirts. Here he worked with Sir Aubrey Lewis and Hans Eysenck and began his lifelong and pioneering work on psychosomatic disorders which helped to achieve a much greater understanding of the relationship between "mind and matter".

In addition to being responsible for running outpatient clinics for the whole of London and despite the ongoing Blitz, Rees demonstrated his determination to research and he carried out a comprehensive series of anthropometric measurements on all admissions, the results of which enabled the development of the Rees Eysenck Index for body build in men.

After the war, Rees became a specialist at the Prisoner of War Neurosis Unit, treating patients who had suffered breakdowns; he then returned to Wales, gaining wide experience in many areas of psychiatry. He was back at the Maudsley as a consultant from 1954 and was appointed, first, Lecturer and then, from 1966, Professor of Psychiatry at St Bartholomew's Medical College, part of London University, where he remained until his "retirement" in 1980. Even then he continued in clinical practice, becoming Medical Director of Charter Medical and subsequently Director and Medical Adviser at Huntercombe Manor Hospital, in Berkshire.

Linford Rees's clinical career was astonishing in its breadth, spanning a period when the treatment of mental disorder changed beyond all recognition. Drawing on all his experience, he was a brilliant diagnostician, able to solve problems that baffled his colleagues. Just a couple of carefully worded questions, delivered in his soft Welsh voice, and patients would pour out their symptoms to his sympathetic ear.

Alongside this dedication to his patients, Rees was active on both national and international stages. He was awarded honorary fellowships of professional associations and societies in the UK and worldwide. He was one of the founders of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (which emerged in 1971 from the Royal Medico-Psychological Association, itself a child of the Association of Medical Officers of Asylums and Hospitals for the Insane, founded in 1841) and was its second President, helping to steer the new college to become a highly respected training institution in psychiatry. He was also President of the BMA, the first psychiatrist to be so, and an influential treasurer for a decade of the World Psychiatric Association. He served on numerous governmental and non-governmental bodies, and acted as an adviser to the World Health Organisation.

As a teacher, Rees was gifted, inspiring and memorable - dating back to immediately after the Second World War, when he was given what he described as one of the most interesting and stimulating posts that he ever held: training and updating the skills of qualified psychiatrists who had been serving in the armed forces. His personal teaching was supplemented by many publications, including A Short Textbook of Psychiatry (1967).

His influence on new generations of psychiatrists went beyond formal teaching. At his house in Purley, his and his family's generosity and warmth were extended to many. Rees was an excellent listener and a thoughtful adviser and he had a great sense of humour and of fun. Difficult issues could be debated and all could benefit from his ideas, his vision and his experience.

Although he lived most of his life in London, Linford Rees remained a Welshman through and through and his links to South Wales were strong, both through his own family and that of his wife. His marriage to Catherine Thomas took place on 15 June 1940, the very day that he was appointed to Mill Hill. Catherine was by his side for the next 54 years and the wonderful atmosphere in their home owed much to her and to their children (all of whom, except for the actress Angharad Rees, went into some area of medicine) and grandchildren.

Throughout Linford Rees's long career, his powerful intellect was applied to a range of challenging and diverse problems, from clinical to policy and from research to education, and he brought new and helpful perspectives to all of them, ensuring that psychiatry took its rightful place as a major medical speciality. He was able to face difficult situations with confidence, insight and skill, but never made those less able than himself feel inadequate. Indeed, his ability to draw out the best in others made him perhaps the best mentor that most of us have ever known.

Hamid Ghodse

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