• Claire Hilton’s masterpiece 25 September 2017 | View comments

  • 25th September 2017 | By David Jolley

    Claire Hilton came to us in Manchester as a GP trainee. She was not sure of her future for she was clearly a gifted and able doctor but also had a love and training for a career in history. Work in Manchester persuaded her to stay with psychiatry and to specialise in the care of older people. Her qualifications extended beyond the basics to include an MD from a study of mental health amongst people with Sickle cell disease. More recently she has been awarded a PhD for her studies in the history of services for older people with mental disorders. Her publications are many, they reflect her scholarship and her passion for her subject. Amongst other things she rescued the newsletter of the Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry from a period of neglect so that it began to appear regularly with a fulsome content of high quality communications from clinicians, trainees and senior experts. Claire has moved on from this but her legacy sees the newsletter continue to thrive.

    SShe has been a dedicated and effective, much respected and loved clinician and teacher. Recent years have seen her devoting more time to researching and cataloguing the development of services for older people with mental health problems. In doing this she has forged valued friendships with significant characters and their families, confirming respect and thanks for what has been done, often at considerable personal cost. The Witness seminar which she organised in Glasgow 2008 reassembled friends, colleagues and combatants who had made bricks with little straw to lay foundations which has become a world-wide movement. Those of us who attended will never forget the seminar, nor the fury which it reflected on www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_196526_en.pdf

    Now we are privileged to read her tribute to Barbara Robb – and hopefully to see this wonderful woman properly celebrated and recognised as a figure to stand alongside Marjorie Warren and Cicely Saunders as household names: heroes who have changed our thinking and brought heart to areas which had been neglected and generations of suffering experienced.

    ‘Improving Psychiatric Care for Older People’ is now available – published by Springer. It is possible to download it free https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2F978-3-319-54813-5.pdf

    Most of us will want to buy the hardcopy to read and to share with others. It tells the story of a talented woman whose original ambition was frustrated by injury. It tells of her conversion to become a therapist, and her links to great psychotherapists who were captivated by her charm. It tells of her sensitive commitment to friends and patients and her outrage at the disgraceful brutal regimes they were exposed to when they needed expert care and treatment. We learn of the reluctance of the establishment to believe her and other witnesses, but the bravery and persistence of Barbara Robb and key individuals in politics and medicine.

    The truth would be told. It was. It is here.

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