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People :: Alumni :: Judith Brearley


Judith Brearley

Certificate in Medical Social Work

Graduated: 1963

As a teenager, I already had a clear wish to become an Almoner. To this end, I chose to go first to LSE, where I completed the B.A. Hons. Sociology degree in 1962. This included Social Policy and Administration. Although not compulsory, I was enabled to have excellent placements in a Psychiatric Hospital and a Family Service Unit. I was then free to choose between three medical social work courses: LSE, Edinburgh or the Institute of Almoners. I was particularly attracted to Edinburgh’s ability to offer a placement in General Practice.

In 1962-3, the social work course comprised 10 MSWs, 10 PSWs and 4 Child Care students. This size of cohort was determined by the availability of placements. I have very positive memories of all aspects of the course; the academic and professional learning on offer and the mutual support of fellow students. My first placement was at the Western General Hospital. Then followed the General Practice Teaching Unit (which played a significant role in my future career) and finally, a full-time few weeks in Sheffield Royal Infirmary.

In the early 1960s, qualified almoners were in short supply - only about 1000 in the UK. This gave one the luxury of choice. I was encouraged to visit four London hospitals, and felt extremely fortunate to be accepted by St. George’s, Hyde Park Corner. I spent three happy years there 1963-6. Standards were high, skilled supervision was generously offered and there were many opportunities for professional development. I found myself teaching nurses in my second year and supervising an LSE student a year later. It was in 1964 that the title Medical Social Worker replaced Almoner.

In 1966 I returned to Edinburgh as an Assistant Lecturer in the Medical School, based in the General Practice Teaching Unit. This involved providing social work and helping medical students to understand the impact of societal and personal problems on patients of the practice, all in close collaboration with the GPs. I also supervised social work students.

From 1968 to 1970, I was Senior Medical Social Worker at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

For the next 21 years, I was a Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer in Social Work.

Source: own contribution (6.12.2016)