John Alan Pollock

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 07 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:849

Founder of the United Kingdom's first doctors' deputising service

John Alan Pollock set up the United Kingdom's first doctors' deputising organisation in 1960. At its height in the mid-1970s, Dr Pollock's “clinical organisation” (as he called it) had on its books more than 400 doctors of all specialties, including general practitioners, and covered all of south London below the Thames. Not only did his organisation provide much-needed on-call services for GP practices, it also provided locums for hospitals, which at that time were short of manpower.

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To doctors, too, Dr Pollock's organisation provided a vital service, offering trainees at all stages of medical education a chance to earn extra money and to devise a more flexible way of earning a living while between jobs and studying for exams.

Dr Pollock eschewed the term “agency” to describe his organisation. He regarded it more as a not for profit body, where the money gleaned from its large turnover was simply the oil necessary to keep its complicated machinery going, not the end purpose in itself. He was proud of the fact that he never advertised.

In the early 1980s he was approached by the UK's largest locum agency, Aircall, to buy him out for a not inconsiderable sum, but Dr Pollock turned down the offer.

He did not set out to form a locum agency, but fell into doing so when he was engaged on a period of biomedical research after completing a stint as a senior house officer in Porthcawl, Glamorgan. He was constantly being asked by colleagues to stand in for them and was consequently asking others to stand in for him. He became so adept at juggling shifts that he decided to make it his second profession.

During the organisation's busy years, Dr Pollock's wife, Diana, also a doctor, worked full time with him, helping to run it. In the mid-1980s, they slimmed down the organisation to one offering out of hours on-call services to general practitioners in southeast London. After Diana's death in 1988, Dr Pollock carried on working by himself, until the early stages of dementia from Alzheimer's disease forced him to retire in 1996.

During the second world war Dr Pollock served as a captain in the Black Watch and then with No 5 Commando, and took part in the D Day landings and the recapture of Mandalay.

He leaves two daughters and four grandchildren.

John Alan Pollock, locum organiser south London (b 1923; q Guy's Hospital, London, 1953), d 5 February 2005.

[Vincent Dawe]


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