Lives of the fellows

William Allen (Sir) Daley

b.19 February 1887 d.21 February 1969
Kt(1944) BSc(1906) MB BCh Liverp(1909) MB BS Lond(1911) DPH(1911) MD(1912) MRCP(1934) FRCP(1939)

Allen Daley was the leading figure amongst MOHs at the time of the establishment of the National Health Service. The office has now disappeared, but many who held it in the period 1918 to 1948 contributed more to the progress of health care in Britain than is now realized. They established child health services and maternity services, carried on the impetus of the sanitary revolution and the improvement of housing, and established clinical and preventive services for tuberculosis and venereal diseases when those were a far heavier burden than they are today. The voluntary hospitals had demonstrated the potential of specialist medicine and surgery, but could not provide fully for district needs, and between the wars MOHs had to guide their authorities attempting to ensure service for all. The NHS was introduced in 1948 to develop a general service to meet the needs of the nation; it could not have succeeded without the work of such as Allen Daley in the preceding thirty years.

Allen was acquiring the DPH in 1911 when his father, the MOH of Bootle, was accidentally drowned. He had already obtained the MB degrees of Liverpool and London and was developing clinical interests. He had become well known to the Bootle Councillors who invited him to succeed his father. Nine years later he moved to the larger Borough of Blackburn, and after five years to Hull. In 1929 Sir Frederick Menzies, who had met him on a committee in London, invited him to come to County Hall as his principal helper in the huge task of hospital reorganization, which the Health Department faced under the County Council’s new powers. Allen’s work in the reorganization led to his appointment first as Menzies’ Deputy and then, in 1939, as his successor. He therefore carried the load of London’s health organization in wartime, with all the problems of the division between Boroughs and County and of collaboration with Teaching Hospitals. Fortunately he had already brought many part-time specialist staff into the LCC hospitals, and had shown his readiness to cooperate in the preparation for the establishment of the Postgraduate School at Hammersmith. Andrew Topping, whom he had brought in as Deputy, was to undertake the hospital survey with Archibald Gray. At a time when Public Health was barely recognized by hospital specialists, Allen had made himself persona grata by the obvious quality of his contribution and his readiness to help rather than control.

The 1948 changes were not welcomed by MOHs of Allen’s generation, and he among them regretted the removal of local authority hospital responsibilities. Nevertheless he worked to make the new system succeed. He was himself, later, a member of a Regional Hospital Board and he organized his own department to take on large new responsibilities for preventive services. He recognized the necessity of coordination, and extended his monthly meeting with Borough MOHs to include Regional Board and Home Counties administrative medical staff. When he retired in 1952 he left his successor, John Scott, a completely reorganized and effective service.

During his official career Daley’s skill in committee had become widely known and his help was constantly sought outside. He was a member of the committee of management at Hammersmith from its inception to the time of his death. He was at various times Chairman of the Councils of the Royal Sanitary Institute and the Society of Medical Officers of Health, of which he was later President. He was a founder member of the Central Health Services Council and first Chairman of the Standing Mental Health Advisory Committee. He was a member and partly the instigator of the Central Council for Health Education. He was President of the Section of Epidemiology and State Medicine of the RSM. In retirement he was asked to join many committees — he once told the writer there were thirty four. He always read the papers; his comments were always apposite; he was an orderly and effective chairman. He was the first President of the UK Committee for WHO, and Chairman of the National Association for Maternity and Child Welfare. In the College he was a Councillor and Croonian Lecturer. He was knighted in 1944 and made Honorary Physician to the King in 1947. On his retirement he spent a year working in Baltimore with Huntington Williams as Associate Health Officer.

Daley was urbane and diplomatic in administration — not an autocrat, but well aware of his authority, which was enhanced by a remarkable memory and great industry. Some people who did not know him well thought him over-conscious of the dignity of his position, but he was in fact a friendly, helpful colleague. He could and did delegate, and he supported those who worked under him. He was not an originator, but he had enormous ability in developing the less organized ideas of those who were — and always gave them the credit. In his field of medicine he was outstanding in his time and he was a good friend to have and keep.

In 1913 Daley married Mary Toomey; they had a son, Raymond who became an FRCP, and one daughter.

Sir George Godber

[Brit.med.J., 1969, 1, 581, 722; Lancet, 1969, 1, 534; Times, 24 Feb 1969; DNB]

(Volume VI, page 133)

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