Alex Hossack 1949-2020

A tribute with contributions from Simon Duff, Lorraine Perry, Nick Wakefield, Lisa Wright, Sara Finlayson and Jenny McCarthy.

Our friend, mentor, and boss John ‘Alex’ Hossack died suddenly due to heart complications in July 2020.

Alex was head of Mersey Forensic Psychology Service, a regional NHS service, having developed it for over 20 years until retiring in 2014. Alex was most proud of the innovative work the service provided to adults who had sexually offended, which he nurtured throughout his career, incorporating approaches from across the psychological spectrum. He championed the idea of para-professionals; ex-service users coming back to offer support and insight, included throughout the interventions. This service was, and still is, highly regarded across the criminal justice system. He was also well regarded as an expert witness and consultant to statutory agencies.

Alex was fiercely protective of psychological services and roles within the wider system, defending the professional skill set, and was resistant to them being assimilated into other professions; this did not always win him friends in high places but his knowledge and expertise was widely recognised and respected. Many of those who worked with him wanted to share some thoughts:

I’ll always remember Alex for how he kept an excitable, newly qualified psychologist who wanted to do it all focused on developing the fundamentals whilst encouraging exploration of my own interests and professional growth. He was always keen to incorporate new ideas and oversaw the development of a Non-Offending Partner program, Schema Therapy service and Mentalisation Based Treatment for Anti-Social Personality Disorder. Nick

I have fond memories of working for Alex; as a newly qualified psychologist I was in awe of his knowledge and experience and am ever thankful for his diligence in ensuring I could work safely in a complex and challenging specialism. He was a great loss when he retired and will be sadly missed. Lorraine

Alex offered me my first Stage II opportunity, the tipping point for my career. He was a generous teacher and colleague, always with an illuminating story, who encouraged us to challenge ourselves and to find opportunities. I enjoyed his company, benefited from his knowledge, and hope I carry some of his enthusiasm for the work to instil in others. Simon

Alex created a nurturing environment, within which I, and many other psychologists, could grow professionally and personally; developing the skills we needed to enjoy working in this challenging area. His integrity, expertise and humour remain in my thoughts and continue to influence my development. Lisa

Alex was both infuriating and inspiring for a manager.  He stuck to his principles and I much admire him for this.  We shared frustrations, irritations, paranoia and lots and lots of laughs. Sara

I was very sad to hear about the death of Alex Hossack. I first met Alex in 1995 when I was a Psychiatric Senior Registrar and I joined him in facilitating a long term sex offender group. I learnt so much by observing his non-judgemental approach and his ability to get men to talk in a group about the most sensitive of subjects. He was rightfully proud of this work and fought fiercely to maintain the service which was frequently threatened with cuts.

When I became a Consultant, Alex was the team psychologist for many years. He brought many things to the team, an ability to quickly formulate patients’ psychological difficulties and deliver treatment,  to disagree with other team members without falling out and to offer great support to the Multidisciplinary team, his team of psychologists and the wider service. His stories about his past life were endlessly fascinating, his analysis of handwriting never failed to surprise and his dreams of life in a garret flat in Paris kept us all amused. 

I felt lucky to have worked with him for as long as I did, he was a kind and generous man who would always make time to talk. I remember once talking to him about the frustrations I was having with my (then) teenage daughter and how exasperated I felt with her. He listened very intently and responded within seconds telling me that he thought the problem was that I saw so much of myself in her. Not what I had expected to hear but on reflection he was absolutely right! Jenny

Alex was not only the long-serving captain of the forensic psychology service, but he also captained his own boat up in the Lake District; although Cathy, his partner, had to get it out of the dock and back again. He was an avid Egyptologist, musician, traveller and bonne viveur who made the most of life.

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber