Obituary: Henriette Santer

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The Independent Online

Henriette Cornelia Weststrate, clinical psychologist: born Amsterdam 11 May 1932; clinical psychologist and lecturer, Groningen University 1962- 64; Senior Clinical Psychologist, Warneford Hospital, Oxford 1965-66, Littlemore Hospital, Oxford 1966-67; Senior Clinical Psychologist, Ida Darwin Hospital / Principal Clinical Psychologist, Fulbourn Hospital, Cambridge 1967-80; Head of Department, Whittington Hospital, London 1983-84; District Clinical Psychologist, Guy's Hospital and North Lewisham and Southwark Health Authority 1984-88; District Clinical Psychologist, Bromsgrove and Redditch Health Authority 1988-92; Regional Adviser in Clinical Psychology, West Midlands Regional Health Authority 1989-91; Chair, South Birmingham Mental Health NHS Trust 1994; married 1964 Mark Santer (one son, two daughters); died Birmingham 8 August 1994.

HENRIETTE SANTER's successful career as a clinical psychologist in Oxford, Cambridge, London and Bromsgrove was marked by a quiet and unassuming constancy in providing a high- quality and caring service. This commitment stayed until the last, so that, when she was appointed Chair of the South Birmingham Mental Health NHS Trust in February this year, she planned to continue some clinical work voluntarily.

She was born Henriette Weststrate, in Amsterdam in 1932. After her clinical training in Amsterdam and Utrecht, she studied for her doctorate in Groningen. She came to England in the mid- 1960s after meeting Mark Santer, the present Bishop of Birmingham, in East Berlin. They married in 1964, the year that he was ordained priest, and the geographical pattern of her subsequent career reflected the moves necessitated by a cleric's calling. She managed the difficult balancing act required of a dedicated professional who was also a clergyman's wife and a working mother.

The tasks of a clinical psychologist are varied and Henriette Santer contributed in many ways. When her PhD thesis was published it was the first book in Dutch about behaviour therapy. She used her research skills to guide and evaluate both clinical practice and other service work. She was also an examiner for the British Psychological Society's Diploma in Clinical Psychology.

As the profession of clinical psychology, grew in the late Sixties and early Seventies - offering new models of care and treatment involving behaviour therapy rather than the psychological testing and psychiatric models that had predominated previously - so too did the need for good professional management. This gave Santer the opportunity to show the full range of her abilities. Her rise to positions of authority was not driven by personal ambition but by others' recognition of her talents. When she was herself in a position to influence, she did so with fairness.

Her various positions as a District Clinical Psychologist were often difficult. Whether within a London teaching hospital, a provincial clinical psychology department, or as the adviser in clinical psychology to a regional health authority, Santer's modest, unassuming but invariably direct personality won people over. She was a careful planner, and an assiduous listener. Her capacity to integrate and synthesise information and then to act upon it sensitively was marvellous to witness.

Santer was, too, an active and successful innovator. At Guy's she acquired space in a new building in the mid-1980s, uniquely for clinical psychologists. While at Barnsley Hall Hospital, Bromsgrove, between 1988 and 1992 she developed a multi-disciplinary team working for patients with long-term mental health problems. At the places where she worked she ensured that clinical psychology moved from the periphery to a more central position in hospital medicine, and, critically, that it stayed there after she had moved on.

The last of Henriette Santer's appointments, as Chair of the South Birmingham Mental Health NHS Trust, began only a short time ago. She was excited by the prospect of making it work to the benefit of the community. She knew the necessity of sound general and clinical management, but knew also that such management was not an end in itself.