Alan Edward Wood

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 11 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5434
  1. Neville Taylor

Alan Edward (“Tony”) Wood was at East Barnet Grammar School when he read Men against Microbes by JD Ratcliffe and decided at the age of 12 that he wanted to do medicine. But he had to escape three times from bombed out London family houses, become a senior messenger with the National Fire Service, attend over 100 blitz incidents, serve as a volunteer in the Fleet Air Arm, and qualify as a radio mechanic before he could achieve enough academic qualifications to be accepted by the London Hospital Medical College, Whitechapel, and then in the holidays he worked nights as a ward orderly at Mile End Hospital doing 12 hour shifts, 8 pm to 8 am, to get what he later described as “a good education for budding doctors.”

For most of his life he kept a diary and one of his entries refers to his time at Mile End: “Long hours, arduous work, strict discipline and seeing sick people in the raw. Fifty bedded wards, mixed medical and surgical with an outside balcony for TB cases. One poor little old Jewish man had a gangrenous leg that needed amputation. I was told to accompany him to theatre and then told that my job was to hold the leg. The summer of 1949 was long and very hot. The temperature in the theatre was in the nineties. I had never been in an operating theatre before. I enquired what I was to do with the leg and was told to put it in a bucket. Being anxious to get things right, I carefully positioned the bucket to my right ready for my big moment. When the leg was at last detached from its owner, I swung round to demonstrate my competent theatre technique, only to find that someone had moved the bucket. I think that was probably the moment when I decided that maybe my future career was not to be in surgery.”

After a general practitioner trainee year in Romford, Essex, he went to the Medway Towns in Kent as a general practitioner assistant in 1955 and was subsequently for 15 years the senior partner of a practice in Rochester and Strood, while also acting as part time medical officer at HM Prison Borstal and industrial medical officer to South Eastern Gas Board, Amoco Oil Company, and GKN Kent Alloys.

Elected FRCGP in 1973, at various times between 1963 and 1981 he had been chairman of the South East Thames Faculty Board, a member of the RCGP Council and the Practice Organisation Committee, Royal College of General Practitioners tutor for the Medway district, and provost of the South East Thames Faculty. He was also a founder member of the Kent Postgraduate Centre at Canterbury and the chairman of the Medway Postgraduate Centre.

In 1977 he resigned from general practice for family reasons and joined the (then) Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) as regional medical officer, Southern Division (Wiltshire, Dorset, Sussex, Surrey, Kent, and South London), and in 1980 was seconded to Alexander Fleming House. Within a few months he was promoted to senior medical officer with responsibility for primary care policy and general practitioner disciplinary matters. He retired from the DHSS in 1984 so that he could spend more time looking after his wife when she had a series of illnesses, but she died in 1992. For some years he continued to work part time as a referee for the Regional Medical Service and as an examining medical practitioner to the Department of Social Services for attendance and mobility allowances.

Tony was a member of the Rochester and Cobham Golf Club for nearly 50 years, and also played croquet with the Castle Club Rochester. Predeceased by his first wife, he leaves his second wife, Phyllis; two sons; a daughter, and a stepson.


Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5434


  • Former general practitioner, Kent, and DHSS senior medical officer (b 1928; q London 1953; FRCGP), died on 3 August 2010, after unsuccessful surgery to remove malignant bowel and bladder tumours and a lengthy period of treatment for lymphoma.

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