Lives of the fellows

Joseph Connolly

b.6 May 1930 d.25 September 2008
MB BS Lond(1956) MRCS LRCP(1956) DCH(1958) DObst RCOG(1958) MRCP(1960) DPM(1971) MPhil(1972) MRCPsych(1973) FRCPsych(1981) FRCP(1984)

Joseph Connolly (‘Joe’) was a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital, London, and a firm advocate of care in the community for the mentally ill. Born in the Tower of London, where his father, Patrick, a soldier with the Irish Guards, was stationed at the time, he was educated at the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Holland Park. Before going to medical school he enlisted with the 1st Battalion of the Black Watch in 1948 to do his National Service. He served in Germany until 1950, with the rank of second lieutenant.

He studied medicine at the London Hospital Medical College and the London Hospital. Qualifying in 1956, he did house jobs at the London for two years and then became medical registrar at the Metropolitan Hospital for a further two years. Moving to Bermuda, he was appointed consultant physician at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and he remained there for nine years until 1969. During his time there he volunteered for the Royal Naval Reserve and served from 1958 to 1968 as a surgeon lieutenant and then, surgeon lieutenant commander.

While working at the King Edward VII he came in contact with psychiatric trainees who had been seconded from the Maudsley Hospital to run a skeleton psychiatric service on the island. They inspired him to apply for a trainee post on his return and the dean interviewed him by telephone. He got the post and, on his return to the UK, he became a registrar, then senior registrar, at the Maudsley Hospital. While there he helped pioneer a three year nurse therapy-training programme. In 1975 he joined Westminster Medical School as a senior lecturer in psychiatry, leaving when he was appointed consultant psychiatrist to the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospital in 1983.

One of his principal tasks at the Maudsley was to develop a new form of care for the severely mentally ill. He led a research team in a three year randomised controlled trial comparing the results of assertive outreach at home delivered by nurses to the usual inpatient based care in almost 200 people for 20 months. The outreach care at home emphasised the enhancement of patient’s daily living skills. After 14 months of the trial it was becoming evident that the home-based outreach care led to greater patient and relative satisfaction, slightly superior clinical outcomes and lower cost to the NHS. Unfortunately, during this period three of the home care group committed suicide and the media, on getting hold of the story, overreacted. After sensational reports in the press, which led to questions in the House of Commons, there were repercussions in the form of a certain amount of loss of clinical control over admissions and a drop in the morale of the research team.

Connolly handled the situation with tact, resilience and humour and, eventually the team were completely exonerated. Three of the hospital group also committed suicide – and the death rates were found to be no higher than in non-study patients with similarly severe mental illness. The results were very much the same as similar studies in the USA and Australia and were to lead to increased use of home-based care in severe mental illness. He co-authored eight scientific papers on this topic, of which probably the most significant was ‘Home-based versus hospital-based care for people with serious mental illness’ (Br J Psychiatry, 1994, 165, 179-94) by Marks I M, Connolly J, Muijen M and two others.

He also published papers on topics such as ‘life events before myocardial infarction and accidental injury’, ‘accident proneness’, and ‘mental health care evaluation’. He co-wrote, with IM Marks and two others, Nursing in behavioural psychotherapy (RCN, London,1977), edited Therapeutic options in psychiatry (Tunbridge Wells, Pitman, 1978) and contributed to Peter Dally’s An introduction to physical methods of treatment in psychiatry (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone, 6th ed 1981). He edited the Bulletin of the Association of University Teachers.

At the Maudsley he took on various key administrative positions and was chairman of the medical committee in 1991and of the ethics committee at about the same time. Active in the Society for Pyschosomatic Research, he was its president from 1987 to 1989.

In 1994 he took early retirement as he had developed colon cancer with early spread. After long periods of chemotherapy he had a full remission and was discharged from further follow-up after 10 years.

A keen squash player when young, he also enjoyed music and theatre.

In 1956 he married Marguerite (‘Rita’) née Denneny, whose father Eugene, was a police officer. When he died suddenly, after collapsing at home, Rita survived him with their children, Patrick, Moira, Madeleine, Siobhan and Joe, and eight grandchildren.

RCP editor

[Psych Bull 2009 33 318 - accessed 14 April 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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