Lives of the fellows

Sidney Lawrence Wright

b.27 August 1908 d.11 March 1993
CBE(1974) MRCS LRCP(1931) MB BS Lond(1932) MD(1934) DPH(1934) MRCP(1935) FRCP(1969)

Sidney Wright was born in Leytonstone, Essex, the son of Alfred Wright, a business man, and his wife Miriam née Feather, daughter of a hotelier. He was educated at Marylebone Grammar School and the University of London, where he studied medicine, undertaking his clinicals at University College Hospital. After junior appointments at University College Hospital, Royal Sussex County Hospital and Plaistow Fever Hospital, he was appointed assistant medical officer of health to the boroughs of Hendon and Wembley, 1937-41, then tuberculosis officer and deputy medical officer of health in Reading. He subsequently became medical officer of health and principal school medical officer. In 1948 he was appointed MOH to the County Borough of Croydon, where he remained until his retirement.

The national health service had just come into being and Sidney Wright accepted Aneurin Bevan’s challenge that medical officers of health should be active in coordinating the three branches of the service. Fortunately he worked in a borough with well defined local services; the local authority backed him, as did his hospital colleagues and the general practitioners. He understood the anxieties of family doctors with regard to health centres but did everything possible to see that all the new local authority clinics were capable of being extended to include general practice premises should this be required at a later date. He believed that good health was achieved by means of a balance between the patient and his or her environment and that it was necessary for the medical profession to work together to achieve this.

He used the greater freedom of the local authority over the NHS to provide new services. For example, the Mental Health Act of 1959 had stimulated the extension of psychiatry into general medicine and community care and most of the town’s psychiatrists welcomed the opportunities he provided. He pioneered local authority health education departments as instruments for the teaching of mothers and children; comprehensive programmes were devised and offered to all the schools for inclusion in their curriculum But he doubted that adults could be persuaded to change their behaviour by health education. He was president of the county borough group of the Society of Medical Officers of Health in 1963 and chairman of the mental health group in 1965. He was also chairman of the Croydon division of the BMA. He was honorary physician to HM The Queen from 1965-68, and from 1974-78 he was vice chairman of the Croydon Health Authority and was awarded the CBE.

Sidney married Myra Spiers in 1944 and they had two sons, Peter and Allan. His leisure pursits included music and gardening. Sadly, he was ill for many years before his death.

V C Luniewska

[Brit.med.J., 1993,306,1746-47]

(Volume IX, page 608)

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