Dr Rex Last, House Physician

Hackney Hospital
By Anny Ash

Dr Rex Last was born in 1931 in Brentwood, Essex. He attended Brentwood School and was inspired by his teachers to become a doctor. In 1949 he went to Oxford University to read Medicine. He went on to University College Hospital to do his clinical training and qualified there in 1956. In January 1957 he became a House Physician at Hackney Hospital, where he stayed for six months, before going on to North Middlesex Hospital to do training in obstetrics and gynaecology. He spent the rest of his career in general practice before finally retiring in 19XX.

My first day at Hackney

Dr Last describes starting his career as a House Physician at Hackney Hospital straight after qualifying, suddenly and terrifyingly finding himself in charge of two large wards.

Accommodation at Hackney

It was a living-in post with a room and meals provided, bacon and eggs available from friendly kitchen staff at any time of the night.

A typical day

Dr Last describes a typical day, beginning at 8.00 a.m. with a visit to the wards to be briefed by the sister. There would be daily informal rounds with the registrar, and at least twice a week formal rounds with the consultant, when the house physician was responsible for taking notes.


Cleaners were attached to every ward. With the antibiotics regime still very simple in comparison with today, resistance to drugs was unheard of and hospital infections such as MRSA were unknown.

Hospital referrals

Local GPs were able to send patients to the hospitals which they felt were most appropriate to the patient's needs. Therefore many of the more interesting cases went to central London hospitals rather than Hackney.


A local GP could arrange an admission directly, usually with a phone call to the registrar.

Smallpox and tuberculosis

A patient arriving at the Casualty Department was discovered to have smallpox. Dr Last was instructed to vaccinate every member of staff, approximately five hundred people.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dr Rex Last, House Physician' page
This page was added by Lisa Rigg on 22/03/2010.

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