Former district medical officer of health who helped set up Lancaster's St John's Hospice passes away at 89

Dr John Dyer, who had been the District Medical Officer of Health for Lancaster and District from 1968 until 1990, died peacefully at his home in Hest Bank on March 25.

By Gayle Rouncivell
Monday, 6th April 2020, 9:21 am
Updated Monday, 6th April 2020, 9:22 am
Dr John Dyer.
Dr John Dyer.

His funeral service was held at the Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium with just family members due to the coronavirus outbreak restrictions on gatherings.

The service was conducted by Rev Susan Seed, Vicar of St Luke’s Church, Slyne with Hest.

John Dyer, aged 89, qualified in medicine from the Middlesex Hospital in London in 1953 and after National Service in the RAF, undertook the Diploma in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, qualifying with a distinction in 1957.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

One of his junior hospital posts was at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Westmorland County Hospital, Kendal, and that led to a long association with the area.

His first public health post was in Lancaster (1957-59) followed by jobs in Corby New town and Burnley.

However, in 1968 he returned to Lancaster, this time with his family, married to Betty, a midwife, and two children, Peter and Judith.

John was passionate about improving the health of the local population and committed to the values of the NHS. He oversaw many improvements in housing conditions, with slum clearance, and the eradication of many diseases as vaccination became more accepted.

During his tenure the area was the first in the country to have a Child Development Centre, Domiciliary Remedial Therapists, attachment of nurses to General Medical Practices and Brucellosis free farms.

He managed the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak at Heysham Power Station in 1981 and helped establish St John’s Hospice in Lancaster.

John served in a voluntary capacity on a number of local charities including as chair of the Lancaster Abbeyfield Society, president of the Lancaster Branch of Mencap, St John’s Ambulance Service, for which he was awarded an Order of St John of Jerusalem Merit, and as a trustee for the Roberts Trust in Nelson (medical research) and the Ivy Brown Trust (children’s health).

He was a Lay Reader at St Luke’s Church, Slyne with Hest and a Past President of the Lancaster Rotary Club. He held a senior rank as a Freemason in the Province of East Lancashire and was active in a Lodge in Carnforth.

He enjoyed many hobbies including gardening, tapestry, travelling and the theatre. He and Betty always supported the Grand Theatre and in the 1970s he had been a stage manager for the Footlights and member of the theatre management team.

He helped establish the medical museum in Lancaster when he and a small group of doctors recognised that there was a valuable local heritage which could be lost as the hospitals were being closed.

He is survived by his son Peter, who works for the local NHS, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.