Goodmayes Hospital and Thomas Harry David Arie

When West Ham became an independent borough in the late 1800s, one of the first decisions the council took was to establish that the new area should dispose of its own asylum for mentally ill paupers. To this end, a small farm located in Ilford was purchased, with the intent of transforming it into an asylum.

Architect Lewis Angel was hired to redesign the farm and work started in 1898, only to be completed in 1901, when the asylum started admitting its first patients. In 1918 the asylum changed its name to the West Ham Mental Hospital. During World War II, the West Ham Mental Hospital underwent a very hectic period: the building, which had noticeably expanded since its creation, suffered severe damages, and four of its wards were converted into emergency hospitals.

The West Ham Mental Hospital assisted more than 8000 patients during the war period. In 1948 the building joined the NHS and was renamed Goodmayes Hospital. In 1969 Goodmayes had its first psycho-geriatric unit created. This department was mainly established to take care of patients over the age of 65 who suffered or had begun to suffer from dementia. The basic idea was to create a team of geriatricians and psychiatrists that could work in synergy in order to provide medical support to these patients.

One of the pioneers of this new approach was Thomas Harry David Arie. When this unit was opened, Goodmayes started looking for consultants with a background in the care and cure of the elderly, and that is when the Hospital and Dr. Arie crossed their paths. Dr. Arie was born in Prague, in 1933 and relocated to England when he was six years old, growing up between Reading and Oxford. He received his clinical training at Radcliffe Hospital, where he qualified in 1960.

Since the beginning of his career, Dr. Arie always honed an interest in the psychiatry for the elderly and social medicine, but it was at the Goodmayes Hospital that he was able to frame these interests in a more practical manor. Together with Dr. Jefferys – with whom he shared the same interests in psychiatric research – he set out to improve elderly care at Goodmayes Hospital and venture into the exploration of the then still new field of psycho-geriatric care.

Initially financed and backed by political institutions, Arie was able to develop an assessment unit that concerned the evaluation of psycho-geriatric illness. Although this unit was eventually discarded, Arie’s work is still considered to be pioneering. This is due mainly to the fact that he was one of the first doctors to tackle the issue of age generated mental health issues, and to run a whole unit devoted to it. Goodmayes hospital was the theatre for the development of Arie’s research, and the legacy he left behind was spawned also by this hospital that not only did he use as his research lab, but also as a place where to improve the elder care system in the 1970s.

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