Lives of the fellows

John Langdale Reed

b.16 September 1931 d.9 October 2009
CB(1993) BA Cantab(1953) MB BChir(1956) MRCP(1958) DPM(1964) MRCPsych(1971) FRCP(1974) FRCPsych(1974)

John Langdale Reed was a consultant psychiatrist at Hackney Hospital, London. In the early 1990s he was chair of the committee which produced a report on the Health and social services for mentally disordered offenders, a highly important and influential report which is always known as the Reed report. It was the first major review of the topic for nearly 20 years.

Born in Northampton, he was the son of John Thompson Reed, a dental surgeon, and his wife Elsie May née Abbott, whose father, Arthur Hennell Abbott, was a publican. Educated at Oundle School, he studied medicine at Cambridge and Guy’s Hospital. After qualifying in 1956, he did house jobs at Lewisham Hospital for a year and then did two years’ National Service as an officer in charge of the medical services in the Northern Ireland Command.

In 1961 he joined the staff of the Maudsley Hospital as registrar and then senior registrar. Here he continued his training in psychiatry under Aubrey Lewis [Munk’s Roll, Vol. VI, p.284] and then Sir Denis Hill [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.264]. He was appointed a senior lecturer and honorary consultant in psychological medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in 1967, and also a consultant psychiatrist at the Hackney Hospital.

He found that there was a great need for psychiatric services in Hackney, since it was one of the most deprived areas in the UK. Enthusiastically throwing himself into the work, he became co-director of the community psychiatry research unit at the hospital in 1979, at the same time continuing to teach his students and maintain his research on drug dependency. He realised that there were too few sheltered residential places for his discharged patients which led to unnecessarily long stays in hospital. The work of the unit was to try to find more support for such patients in the community.

In 1986, he was seconded to the Department of Health (DOH) to be senior principal medical officer in the mental health and illness division. Three years later, he added the elderly and physical disability to his brief and, in 1991, all specialist hospital medical care became his responsibility. His was the most senior position ever held by a psychiatrist in the DOH.

During his time in Hackney, he had become aware that one of the main problems was the treatment and care of mentally disordered offenders. If someone with a mental disorder became entangled in the criminal justice system, it was hard to get them treatment in prison or a secure bed in a psychiatric hospital. Part of the underlying problem was the split areas of responsibility, and one of Reed’s triumphs was to persuade the Home Office and the DOH to set up a committee jointly to tackle the problem. The report was published in seven volumes covering all aspects of the care of mentally disordered offenders and was greeted with great acclaim. Those planning the provision of psychiatric services, either at a district or national level, would have to take into account the ‘Reed principles’. He was awarded the CB in 1993 for his work in the DOH, and from 1990 to 1993 he was honorary civil physician to the Queen. In 1996 he joined the Prison Inspectorate as a medical inspector, retiring four years later.

He married Hilary née Allin in 1959, the daughter of John Freeman Allin a dental surgeon, and his wife, Elsie. Hilary also qualified in medicine in 1956, from London University, and worked as a senior clinical medical officer in audiology for the Bromley area health authority. They had a son and a daughter, Alison, who is a qualified psychiatrist and a member of the RCP. His wife and children survived him.

RCP editor

[Royal College of Psychiatrists Report of 23rd annual meeting - accessed 10 March 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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