Born: October 15, 1929;

Died: June 17, 2022.

DR John Dall, who has died after a brief illness, worked in the NHS in and around Glasgow for 40 years. His influence, however, extended far beyond the west of Scotland.

He was a pioneer of geriatric medicine and made major contributions to the care of elderly patients throughout the UK, Europe and Canada.

He was the driving force behind the building and commissioning of the Victoria Geriatric Unit in Mansionhouse Road, which opened in 1971.

The unit was noteworthy for having assessment and rehabilitation wards, continuing care beds for older patients with complex medical and nursing needs, a day hospital, an outpatient clinic, an X-ray department and well-staffed departments of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy.

This was the vanguard of a much more active and interventional approach to illness in old age than had hitherto been considered appropriate. The aim was to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate elderly patients with a view to returning them, if possible, to independent living.

The unit thrived and became a powerful magnet for young doctors who then became consultants elsewhere in Scotland and throughout the UK. International visitors came in large numbers to learn about the Glasgow geriatric method and returned home to develop comprehensive medical services for elderly patients in their own countries.

John’s organisational and negotiating skills led to him being recruited by the Canadian government to advise on the development of geriatric services. He spent a year as a visiting professor in Ottawa (1982-83) and continued to visit, and advise, for a number of years. This helped to build on strong medical ties between Scotland and Canada.

John Dall, known as “Buster” to his friends, was born in 1929. The middle of three brothers, he attended school in the south side of Glasgow. At 16 he decided he wanted to study medicine but the headmaster, not believing that John was sufficiently academic for a medical career, and declined to support

his application.

In high dudgeon, John’s mother took him for a meeting with the headmaster of Hutchesons’ Grammar School. It is unclear whether the headmaster was most impressed by the young John’s abilities or by his mother’s determination, but he was accepted for the school, completed a sixth form, and entered medicine at Glasgow University, from which he graduated in 1953.

Three years as a junior officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps followed before he returned to Glasgow to continue his medical career.

He had a clear understanding of the importance of clinical leadership, aligned with effective committee working, in improving services for patients.

He was elected president of the British Geriatric Society at a time of major expansion of the speciality. He made important contributions to the International Society of Gerontology and served as secretary, then president, of its clinical section.

John’s achievements were recognised by a number of awards and accolades including the Order of St John, an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa, and the Order of the British Empire.

One meeting, however, earned him a stern rebuke. Having enquired about costs for a national meeting at the usual UK conference venues, he negotiated an excellent deal to hold the meeting in Penina, on the Algarve coast.

It was highly successful. On returning to the UK, however, he was summoned to the Department of Health. Its concern was not about the venue, or about the costs but about the consequences for the NHS had there been an accident involving the chartered aircraft carrying around 50 per cent of the UK’s geriatric specialists. The message was that geriatricians, like royalty, should not all travel together on the same aircraft.

Predeceased by Lilian, his wife of more than 60 years, John leaves two daughters (one of whom is a doctor), four grandchildren (three of whom are doctors) and four great grand-children. Independent to the end, he had attended a golf club lunch two days before he died and had booked his flights to join his daughters and their families on a birthday celebration visit in Portugal.