Consultant Geriatrician

Consultant Geriatrician

Born: March 25, 1947; Died: December 23, 2013

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Dr Richard Edward Young, who has died aged 66, was a consultant geriatrician for Inverclyde, Cowal and Bute for 25 years and played a major role in innovating and modernising elderly medicine for these diverse populations. Some of his peers said the task he was undertaking would be impossible, but he succeeded and his life's work gave him enormous satisfaction.

He was the son of James Young, thread manufacturer to J & P Coats, Paisley, and his wife Emily, and was schooled at the John Neilson Institution, Paisley, before studying medicine and graduating MB ChB from the University of Glasgow in 1971.

Aspiring to become a physician, he trained in various medical specialities, mainly in the Western Infirmary in Glasgow.

After gaining his MRCP (UK), the direction of his future life's work crystallised for him when he gained dual accreditation to apply for consultant posts in internal medicine and geriatric medicine.

His appointment as consultant physician in geriatric medicine to Inverclyde and surrounding populations was made in 1985.

He inherited facilities for treating and rehabilitating the elderly infirm which were unfit for purpose. They were sited in the scattered hospitals of Bridge of Weir, Ravenscraig Greenock, Dunoon, and Rothesay; all were situated away from Inverclyde Royal Hospital (IRH) in Greenock, which as the natural hub for a geriatric service.

He shouldered a huge caseload, with a paucity of support staff and 150 beds spread over four sites. Additionally he had responsibility for providing services for the young physically disabled.

By dint of his selfless hard work over many years, he modernised the service and introduced many innovations for the care and rehabilitation of the infirm, in their homes, the wards of the IRH and in his own units.

The final transformation came with the opening of the new Larkfield Unit in 2000. It was attached to the IRH Hospital, and gave easy access to the other medical and surgical specialities, and diagnostic facilities that his subset of the general population had long deserved.

He had championed the rights of elderly people to enjoy this purpose-built health care facility and he and the department won the respect of the local population and of his colleagues for their efforts.

He was an astute and thorough clinician, a good communicator, and he adopted a holistic approach to the care of his elderly patients.

He was their advocate and he protected their dignity and their physical and emotional medical needs fiercely. He worked precisely, obsessively, and set himself the highest ethical and professional standards.

He was also a strong supporter of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach for organising the delivery of high quality care for elderly patients. The MDT team comprised nurses, doctors, speech and occupational therapists, physiotherapists and social workers. Dr Young was blind to the concept of status and kudos and while he led the team, he treated all its members as equals. This engendered loyalty and respect from the team although he was direct, clear, and honest with his criticism if staff fell short of the high standards he demanded and occasional personality clashes were the result.

He was an honorary clinical senior lecturer in geriatric medicine to Glasgow University. He was a gifted and enthusiastic teacher who took the responsibility to impart his knowledge to medical students, postgraduates, nurses and other staff very seriously indeed.

At times he was a critic of the establishment. He believed those in positions of authority and responsibility should clearly understand the difference between, in his words, doing something right, rather than doing nothing wrong. He was disrespectful of some of the motives and the bureaucracy involved in medical and administrative committees and he would ruefully state, with twinkling eye, "I did not get where I am today by being a sycophant."

He was also a keen supporter of the fundraising group The League of Hospital Friends in Greenock and as their clinical adviser he oversaw the donation of large sums of money to the IRH and the local medical community to provide equipment and patient transport services.

While he lived for his work, away from its intensity, he adored his children, grandchildren, and his home and garden in Bridge of Weir. The maxim that behind every successful man is a woman was affirmed by his successful marriage to Jocelyn Rentoul, a fellow medical student, whom he met on their first day at university.

At home, he was a charming, erudite and humorous host. He was a serious bibliophile enjoying his huge collection of books with particular focus on naval vessels, the military, cricket and cinema. He was a St Mirren fan and an avid follower of cricket.

His retirement was precipitated by the need to start chemotherapy for aggressive prostatic cancer. Whilst he enjoyed some memorable travel and holidays with his family, his retirement was blighted by this illness which he bore stoically.

He was an obsessive collector of many artefacts, amongst which was found a box of hundreds of letters of appreciation from his rehabilitated patients and their relatives. These are a just and fitting epitaph to this caring doctor and to the aims of his speciality: medicine for the elderly.

He is survived by his wife Jocelyn, their three children, Ramsay, Amy and Lynsey, and their four grandchildren Rhys, Oscar, Connie and Frieda and also by his sister Christine.