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BMJ. 2008 January 5; 336(7634): 51.
PMCID: PMC2174729

Ernest Want

Dr Ernest Want passed away at Park House care home, Bulwell, Nottingham, on 5 September, aged 94. As well as being in medical practice for 49 years, he was an inspired and influential reformer of Nottingham’s services between 1954 and 1971, when he served on the city council.

Dr Want’s life was an extraordinary tale of initial vicissitude and subsequent achievement and success following immigration to this country from India in the 1920s. He was born in Mirpur in Kashmir in 1913 of Hindu family. His mother died shortly after his birth, and from an early age he boarded at the Guru-Kul school, a centre of Hindi training, in the religious town of Haridwar on the Ganges, northern India. The Guru-Kul school provided an education for the Brahmin caste in sanskrit and the sciences. Although this education was very privileged, he referred to it as an orphanage owing to his feeling of abandonment by his family. At the age of 13 his father took him by boat from Ceylon to England, where he was adopted by his childless uncle and aunt. His uncle, Kool-Want, had won a scholarship to Edinburgh University at the turn of the century to study medicine and worked as a general practitioner in Retford, Nottinghamshire, where he also sat on the local council. Undoubtedly, he helped shape his adopted son’s future professional career as well as his interest in local politics.

Dr Want attended East Retford Grammar School and qualified in medicine and surgery at the University of Bristol in 1936. After holding house surgeon and house physician posts in Bristol and Newport, Monmouthshire, he entered general practice in Nottingham in 1939. During the second world war he was regional civil defence medical officer for the city, and in 1948 he became chairman of medical boards responsible for assessing war pensions and industrial injuries.

His political career began in 1954, when he was elected to Nottingham City Council, and over the next 17 years he sat on many local authority committees. He became an alderman in 1963 and lord mayor in 1971-2, as well as deputy lord mayor in 1970 and 1972.

His main contribution as a politician was in the field of medicine, participating in every facet of the National Health Service, including Nottingham Hospital Management Committee, city and county and executive Councils, local medical committee, and as chairman of the local health authority. He encouraged and sustained the development of a new medical school (now the Queen’s Medical Centre University Hospital). The first health centre for Nottingham was opened in 1967, and two further centres were built under his auspices with a programme of provision being established at the rate of one per year during the 1970s. Provision of the Nottingham mental health service owes much to his influence, his main achievement being the erection of a new junior training centre, the first purpose-built for disabled children in the city, together with the plan for an adult training centre, which was erected in 1972. Plans for three hostels for the mentally handicapped were also included in this programme. Organisation of the nursing services along modern management lines was first considered under his chairmanship, and steps were taken to set this into operation before the national Mayston report in 1969 on nursing reorganisation. On account of his own background, Dr Want was very concerned about the immigrant child problem in Nottingham, and under his leadership three day nurseries were approved under Urban Aid for the city, the first of which he opened as deputy lord mayor in 1970.

In 1973 he retired from local politics, but continued to work as a general practitioner until his retirement in 1985. A keen sportsman (he met his future bride at the Nottingham ice rink) he liked playing tennis, and, when he reached middle age, golf. He was a member of Beeston Fields Golf Club for 30 years, and continued to play the game until well into his 80s. He retained an interest in boxing, stemming from his time in the 1960s as doctor on call at the ringside of Nottingham boxing association. Jean, his wife to whom he was happily married for 49 years, died in 1997. He is survived by his two children, Tricia and Christopher, and their families.

Notes

Former general practitioner and honorary alderman Nottingham (b 1913; q Bristol 1936; FRSH), d 5 September 2007.


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