Dr Geoffrey Hatcher obituary (1927-2024)

Dr Hatcher is remembered by Professor Warren Lenney as a wonderful teacher and an astute clinician with a great sense of humour.
Photograph of Geoffrey Hatcher, smiling

Geoffrey Hatcher was born in Victoria Ward at Guy’s Hospital, London in September 1927. His father died when Geoffrey was only 2 years old, so he and his sister Joan were brought up by their hardworking mother who never remarried. They lived in Peabody Buildings in Southwark which today would be known as ‘affordable housing’.

His sister Joan taught him to read and write. Geoffrey was a very bright child who won a scholarship to St Olave’s Grammar School in Borough and then an Open Exhibition to Queen’s College, Oxford where he studied Mediaeval and Modern Languages. Academia never excited him much. He wanted to ‘do good’ in the world so, following graduation in 1948, he decided to become a doctor.

Geoffrey undertook his National Service in the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Lincolnshire and at Ely where he met Bernadette, then enrolled at The Middlesex Hospital in 1950 to study medicine. Bernadette and he were married in St Ethelreda’s, Holborn in 1953. His career was cut short in 1956 when at Southampton he contracted poliomyelitis, was ill for three months and worried whether he would ever walk again. Having played football for Queen’s College 1st football X1 and rowed for the College Eight, this came as a shock but fortunately he recovered well save for a continuing minor limp. But his active sporting days were over.

He was offered the prestigious post as House Physician to Horace Joules at the Middlesex in 1957. But it was at Great Ormond Street where, taught by the great Sir Wilfred Sheldon, he realised his true love was in paediatrics. Before that, he spent two years in General Practice at Tiverton in Devon then furthered his paediatric training at the Middlesex, the Whittington and University College Hospitals before becoming consultant paediatrician in Liverpool in 1967 with responsibilities for child health in the Isle of Man.

At his interview he was asked his views on private practice. He responded in typical Hatcher fashion, that in principle he was opposed to it, particularly in a city like Liverpool where he imagined there was plenty of paediatric work to do within the NHS, but that in time, like some of them around the table, he might be corruptible. Geoffrey always had a wonderful way with words. He moved to the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children, Brighton in 1970 at the age of 43 and remained there until he retired in 1990.

Geoffrey was a wonderful teacher and an astute clinician. No colleague ever heard him raise his voice to anyone and he had a great sense of humour. He loved his work in Brighton and all who knew him loved him. He became the father figure at RACH, someone to approach in times of trouble, someone to ask for a medical opinion or just someone to relax with and have fun. He had no time for ‘management speak’.

Whereas the trend throughout his consultant career was to specialise, resulting in most doctors knowing more and more about less and less, Geoffrey was ‘content to plough the furrow of general paediatrics’ as he so aptly put it. He was one of the last great general paediatricians, trusted by parents and children alike, brim full of intelligence and honest to the core. Respected by all colleagues, he taught and influenced more young doctors and nurses than he realised and was responsible for the highest standards of care wherever he worked.

Geoffrey died peacefully at home in Hove on March 16, 2024 in the care of his family. He had survived the three loves of his life, Bernadette, Betty and Annie but leaves behind his children Amanda, Clare, Niul and Andrew, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and a host of other family members and friends, all with memories of him which will last for the rest of their lives.