PROFESSOR Arup Banerjee spent most of his working life improving medical care for the elderly and put Bolton on the map as a beacon of good practice.

Even now in retirement, at 81, he continues to educate, inform and campaign for this cause. As he explained: “Old age is not a disease and older people deserve proper medical care.”

Arup was born in Calcutta, now Kolkata, India, into a comfortable, traditional Hindu family. He had one older brother and his father was an electrical engineer.

“I had a very happy childhood,” he said, “but it was a strict household.”

It was, however, also a time of great change in the country. In 1941, when he was just five, wartime bombing by Japan forced him, his brother and mother to flee their home and stay 40 miles away for 10 months.

Although the bombing was frightening, wartime conditions – especially trenches everywhere – provided exciting play places for the youngsters.

A more terrible off-shoot of wartime in 1944-5 was the Bengal Famine which left the streets littered with dead. Arup recalled how he asked his mother to help feed people and she set up a regular food kitchen, with young Arup giving out tickets to beggars who came to the house for meals.

Arup was a bright student who worked hard. He gained a distinction in the equivalent of GCSEs and then went to college for the equivalent of his A levels. He wanted to become a doctor so joined Calcutta Medical School, one of the most reputable in India, qualifying in 1957 at 21. Here, a fellow student was a shy girl called Aleya and they became friends.

After a pre-registration period of six moths, he became a House Physician at the medical school. He realised he would have to move for advancement but, by then, he and Aleya were much closer and decided to get married.

He moved to a medical school in Pondicherry as a tutor, without telling his parents about his marriage as they would not approve. When Aleya was pregnant, they informed them “and it eventually worked out well,” said Arup.

As both Arup and Aleya wanted to move to the UK to gain higher medical qualifications, they and their son travelled to the UK by boat in cramped conditions. They arrived at London Victoria with no money, no job, no place to stay and with no-one to guide them through but with a strong determination to succeed.

Arup worked in several district hospitals in the South of England as Senior House Officer while studying and took his MRCP (Member of the Royal College of Physicians) diploma. A job at Southampton General Hospital first put him onto a career path in geriatric medicine.

He and Aleya, now with three sons, wanted further experience and went to teach in a new medical school in Kuala Lumpur. After three years, they returned to the UK and Arup went to Southampton and Portsmouth, joining the new speciality of geriatric medicine

Arup saw the job of Consultant in Geriatric Medicine at the then Bolton General Hospital advertised and successfully applied.

In 1973, he took up this post, finding a service with “too many beds, too few staff and too scattered around the area.” There were also virtually no facilities for training or research, so he set about changing all of this.

He began “case-finding clinics” in the community, actively welcoming elderly patients to hospital if they needed care in a service where elderly people’s ailments were well down the medical agenda.

He forged links with the University Hospital of South Manchester (Withington) where he taught clinical students, junior doctors, nurses and therapists at the same time as carrying out research. He created specialist geriatric nurses.

The results not only changed the ethos of dealing with older people but also took medical knowledge of the subject forward. Bolton had a service respected by the medical profession and Arup Banerjee – who became an accessible and respected community figure – had the affection of a town.

He became a well-published and influential expert: chair of the regional consultants and specialists committee of the BMA, chair of North-west geriatrics training committee, vice-chair of the North Western Regional Health Authority and president of the Manchester Medical Society.

He was awarded an OBE for services to medicine, became president of the British Geriatric Society and medical director of the new Bolton NHS Trust.

At home in Bolton, he was a JP, a Governor at the University of Bolton, and is still an active Rotarian. He writes copiously and has a popular column for the Bolton News where he regularly campaigns for better treatment and awareness of conditions affecting older people.

His own ethos is simple and has proved life-changing for many: “Everyone deserves a diagnosis – whatever their age.”