Lives of the fellows

Joseph Hampson

b.27 February 1926 d.14 November 2017
MB ChB Edin(1948) MRCP Edin(1953) MRCP(1956) FRCP Edin(1967) FRCP(1973)

Joe Hampson, a consultant in Darlington and Northallerton, was the exemplar of the district general hospital physician – a dedicated doctor, admired colleague and skilled teacher. He was a true general physician, now from another era; trained to flourish in the district general hospital with cross-specialty diagnostic skills, always in demand by patients and general practitioners, and always knowing when to seek advice from friends and colleagues.

He was born in Preston, Lancashire. His father, Arthur Ellwood Hampson, was a tea blender and grocer who later became a director of Booths supermarket chain. His mother was Mary Josephine Hampson née Moss. He attended the strict Jesuit Preston Catholic College and remained a firm Catholic throughout his life.

He was not from a medical family, but was encouraged by the family dentist to study dentistry. Only later, when he mistakenly thought that doctors lived in better houses than dentists, did he change to medicine. He studied at Edinburgh Medical School in the war years, qualifying in 1948, the day the NHS was formed. After house jobs in Preston, he spent his National Service years in Northern Ireland, before returning to continue his medical training posts in Preston and then in Edinburgh. This was a time of disillusionment with the NHS and many of his associates emigrated to more lucrative posts in Australia. But Joe applied for and was appointed to a consultant physician post in Darlington and Northallerton, a position he held with great distinction for 30 years.

His juniors all spoke highly of him. Peter Fisher, formerly a physician at Horton General Hospital, Banbury and president of Doctors for the NHS, was one of his first registrars and describes him as an ‘…excellent chief to work for who changed the whole course of my life by encouraging me to consider a hospital career and have a go at the MRCP. I owe him a great debt of gratitude for that.’

Ian Ross, a general practitioner who was his house physician in 1968, writes: ‘I was immediately struck by his friendliness, enthusiasm, clear thinking and presence.… He was a superb and conscientious teacher. He always insisted on the importance of skilful history taking and the value of methodological physical examination. All Joe’s work was done with good humour and style. He was very sociable and, with his wife Betty, who is also doctor, a wonderful and generous host. His consultant physician friend and colleague at the Friarage was Dr Blair Edmunds [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.179]. They had an enviable and exceptional working relationship, always putting the patient first – such a good example to junior staff.’

These attributes were an example to all, especially his fellow consultants. At his behest, there were regular supper meetings at each other’s houses to discuss the issues of the day. He served as an active and sometimes vociferous member of hospital, area and regional committees. He was an early MRCP examiner and was passionate about standards and rather intolerant of those he felt fell below the high ideals he expected, for example, blocking one doctor’s attempt to become an FRCP because, in his view, he was not up to the mark. His secretary, ward sisters, nurses and catering staff all thought the world of him. Hospital lunches were important in those days when matters now reserved for committee meetings were amicably resolved over the lunch table. Joe would wherever possible make time for lunch (and would always have pudding). He appreciated the work of the catering staff so much that his farewell dinner was laid on for him by the hospital canteen.

As was common in the early days of the NHS, he would care for sick children as well as adults and be on-call one in two. He was a keen supporter of the Association of Physicians of Region No 1 (now the Association of North of England Physicians) and presented a memorable series of patients with temporal arteritis. He was a physician adviser to the regional sick doctors’ committee, offering medical advice and mentoring sick colleagues. He was a supporter of the BMA and of all things related to the Royal College of Physicians, both of London and, perhaps even more, of Edinburgh.

Outside his work, Joe was a keen gardener; onions, chrysanthemums and tomatoes were his speciality. The family kept sheep. He was a keen walker. Although not particularly gifted in any sport, he was a devotee of sport on television. He enjoyed fishing for trout and salmon, and played bridge. He was not a great cook (‘Lancashire men should not be seen in kitchens’), but with Betty (née Dias), his wife, was a magnificent host, mixing together old and young, medical and non-medical, all of whom enjoyed his ‘poisonous cocktails’. In his early years, he used to smoke and, walking to work in Edinburgh, he would buy 20 Capstan cigarettes a day, maintaining they were to share with those whose wives would not let them smoke. One day, shortly after the Doll report on smoking was published, and having kicked the cigarette machine because it was empty, he realised he was addicted and stopped smoking there and then.

Joe, like all district hospital physicians, worked with capable and dedicated junior staff from the Indian subcontinent and in my overseas work with the Royal College of Physicians it was not unusual to meet doctors who had worked in Darlington. ‘And how is Dr Hampson?’ they would ask. He had meant so much to them, as he did to all of us who had worked with him.

His son, Sam, of whom he was very proud, followed him into the medical profession and was appointed as a consultant urologist at St George’s Hospital, but a tragic road traffic accident left him disabled and unable to practice, an event which had a profound effect on Joe and the family.

He continued his full share of medical on-call work until he was 65 and then did local appointments for some years. His later years were blighted by two episodes of depression and a disabling movement disorder. He died aged 91, very frail having been weakened following an episode of pneumonia. He was survived by his wife Betty, his love and supporter for 62 years, four children (Sam, Andy, Libby and Poddy), 13 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He will always be remembered by his patients and all who knew him as an outstanding doctor, teacher, colleague and friend.

Peter Trewby

[Betty Hampson; Ian Ross; Peter Fisher]

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List