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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 September 22; 335(7620): 619.
PMCID: PMC1989022

Ralph Meyrick Emrys-Roberts

Meyrick Emrys-Roberts has been credited with saving the cottage hospitals of the United Kingdom at a time when Enoch Powell, as minister of health, was determined to close them all down as uneconomic.

Meyrick was the fifth child of the professor of pathology at Cardiff, and after training and serving as house physician at St Thomas' Hospital he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was posted to Sierra Leone. He returned to St Thomas' as resident pathologist for three years, but decided to go back to clinical medicine and became one of the first medical registrars at Salisbury. He moved on to Sherborne, where he was introduced to the role that cottage hospitals played in the community when he worked at Yeatman Hospital. In 1951 he joined a general practice in Walton on Thames, where he could continue working at the cottage hospital. He became medical adviser to the television series Emergency Ward Ten.

In 1964 he took part in a meeting at Frenchay Hospital to discuss the future of small general practitioner-run hospitals. Through his ability to sway his colleagues in a gentle and persuasive way he became chairman of the group, and in 1969 set up the Association of GP Community Hospitals (AGPCH). During his time as chairman of AGPCH he visited many cottage hospitals around the country and stood up for them whenever he had the opportunity. He retired from the chair after 10 years, and became the first president of what was to become the Community Hospitals Association (CHA). He retired from general practice in 1981 to Dorset, and in 1992 published a history of cottage hospitals, which he subtitled “Arrival, Survival and Revival.”

Meyrick was an excellent musician, an enthusiastic skier, and a skilled painter. When he found that the tremor in his right hand might prevent him from carrying on painting about 20 years ago, he started painting with his left hand just as skilfully. He had a quirky sense of humour, and was fond of playing practical jokes on his family. To his colleagues he was a devoted general practitioner and an inspirational leader with a passion for community hospitals. It is fitting that when the Parkinson's disease deteriorated seriously, he was admitted to his local community hospital, the Westminster Memorial Hospital at Shaftesbury, where he died. He is survived by his wife and three daughters.


Former general practitioner Walton on Thames, and champion of community hospitals (b 6 April 1918; q St Thomas's, London, 1942), d 29 July 2007.

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