George Adams

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 30 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3047
  1. Susan Burge
  1. sue.burge{at}

Created the first purpose built geriatric medical unit in the UK

As a consultant at Belfast City Hospital in 1949, George Adams was responsible for 300 elderly inpatients in overcrowded workhouse accommodation, without resources for treatment or rehabilitation. Adams drove changes in medical policy, replacing passive custodial care with the active approach to illness and old age pioneered by Marjory Warren and others: diagnosing treatable conditions, mobilising patients, and closing beds. He inspired a team of nurses, therapists, and social workers and persuaded the authorities to renovate the wards, creating the first purpose built geriatric unit in the UK, expressly designed for the treatment and rehabilitation of sick elderly people. The unit’s reputation for restoration of activity and independence in hemiplegic people attracted visitors from around the world.

Adams surveyed patients in all hospitals in Northern Ireland who were older than 60, later combining this with a social survey of living conditions and disabilities in a representative sample of old people in their homes. His work underpinned the hospital authority’s policy for the development of geriatric medical services. Rosemary Kelly, chairwoman of the Northern Ireland branch of the British Geriatrics Society (BGS), said that …

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