Braham Myers, Menston Hospital Management Committee
With many and sincerest thanks to Braham Myers for this excellent contribution to the archive, revealing another facet of the hospital routine.
Braham talks about his time at High Royds
I was appointed as a lay member to the (then) Menston Hospital Management Committee in February 1961 when we were living in Rawdon. At that time the Committee was chaired by a formidable lady, Alderman Mrs Hammond, later, I think, Lord Mayor of Leeds. She and the Secretary, Mr Wheeler, were dedicated to the Hospital and did their utmost to improve its services and funding. There were, however, over 2000 patients and wards of 80 beds were fairly general.
At the time the hospital served both Leeds and Bradford and the Board was composed of members from both Cities. It met monthly in mid-mornings and the meetings were fairly formal occasions. Members were expected to stay for lunch and then take part in ward visits and were also expected to serve on one of the three Standing Sub-Committees which also met monthly so members had to be able, if still working, to take time off.
I had been given an induction before my first meeting by Mr Wheeler but my first formal visit with the Committee members was something of a shock as were violently abused and almost attacked by a young, very disturbed, patient on the first ward we entered. The ward sister had no idea how to handle her, but the Hospital Matron who accompanied us very cleverly calmed the young lady down. Perhaps surprisingly, I don’t recall a similar experience during all the time I was connected with the Hospital.
Mrs Hammond was succeeded by Mr. Bailey, less formidable but just as dedicated. At this time the temporary huts in the grounds were still occupied but I and one of the other members, Mr. Jones, an official from a Trade Union un-related to the Health Service suggested we might , having first evacuated the huts, threaten to burn them down. I doubt if we were taken entirely seriously but they were eventually emptied of patients.
Reducing the ward numbers was a considerable problem. The nurses told me that the only way they could do this was by simply removing the bed whenever a patient died, otherwise the doctors would fill them again!
One annual event which was, in my opinion, an embarrassment though there must have been some who thought differently was the Christmas Ball. This was attended by the Lord Mayors and Lady Mayoresses of Leeds and Bradford, Committee Members and their wives or husbands, nursing staff and those patients who were deemed well enough. I thought watching the patients trying to dance somehow compromised their dignity.
As you know, the name of the Hospital was changed by a Committee vote to High Royds in 1963 and the title of Dr. McDonald, the Physician Superintendent – another dedicated servant- changed to Medical Director. Special mention should be given to the Metabolic Research Unit set up by Dr. McDonald and Dr. Roy Hullin. a bio-chemist, in 1962. This carried out research into the use of lithium salts in the treatment of certain kinds of mental illness and received international recognition. Incidentally, Dr. Hullin who wrote the brochure for the Hospital’s centenary in 1988 is still alive and lives in Harrogate.
In 1974 the changes in the NHS structure meant the end of the Management Committee and, in future, Bradford had no input, although, as far as I remember, Bradford patients were retained for the time being. I have a photo taken at the last meeting
The Hospital was to be managed by the Leeds Western District of the Leeds Area Health Authority and I was appointed to the latter, presumably because I was the only lay Leeds member of the former body below retiring age with any experience of a mental hospital! I was a member of the High Royds visiting group for most of my service on the Authority. Visits were less formal and more effective and it was helpful to have experience of other hospitals and for other members to learn about the problems of High Royds. Dr Hullin’s brochure describes many of the changes in the service, both in treatment and in the buildings.
After some years, the Authority was disbanded as being an unnecessary level of Management – as it was -and I was then appointed to the Leeds Western Health Authority which now had its own Committee. Visiting continued in much the same way.
Reaching65 in1986, I retired from the Committee and, was given a buffet reception and a presentation.
I did not sever my connection with Hiigh Royds as when we moved to Menston in 1989 I joined the League of Friends as did my wife and eventually chaired it. It bcame somewhat complicated as we had to establish a new constitution as a registered charity which eventually had to combine with other Leagues from other mental health establishments.
I would like to praise the hospital volunteers and remember them in this archive history. They played a considerable part in the welfare of patients at High Royds and were much appreciated. At one time my wife helped take a trolley with sweets, toiletries and other goods round the wards, including the locked wards which could be quite alarming. Incidentally, the hospital kitchen, at one time, supplied the meals- on- wheels service for much of Aireborough.
From 1983 to 1999 the Voluntary Service Manager was Mrs Cathy Green. She was a splendidly energetic Manager and did a magnificent job.