Dr Bruce Thomas Gillmer (1946-2022)

A tribute from Professor John L. Taylor.

Bruce Gillmer died on 11 January 2022 after living with cancer for several years. Bruce was born and raised in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Before coming to the UK in 1998, Bruce trained as clinical psychologist at Rhodes University and the University of Natal before taking a doctorate at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein in 1991 with a dissertation entitled ‘A model for assaying judicial limits in forensic child psychology.’ As well as working in private practice, and his involvement in several high profile trials in South Africa, Bruce lectured at the University of Natal – rising to become Head of the Department of Psychology in the mid-1990s. 

Bruce replied to an advert I placed for psychologists to join a new psychology service at what was then the Northgate & Prudhoe NHS Trust in the North East of England in early 1998. He began work with us in September 1998 and together we grew the service from approximately two whole time equivalents to more than 60 psychologists by the time the Trust merged in 2006 to become part of Northumbria, Tyne & Wear NHS Trust. Bruce was instrumental in building and leading this service that gained a national and international reputation for its workforce innovations and development of ground-breaking treatment programmes targeting criminogenic need. 

In addition to service building and development, over the years Bruce was variously: a senior academic tutor on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology programme at Newcastle University where he led on a course curriculum review; a principal lecturer at Northumbria University where he contributed to MSc course developments in Forensic Practice and Associate Psychologist training; a DoH lead for an Associate Psychologist national pilot; a Health Professions Council assessor for international applicants; and a British Psychological Society statement of equivalence examiner. Bruce also continued to work on complex legal problems including some high profile cases with the Criminal Cases Review Commission.  

Perhaps most notably, Bruce was involved at a national level in the establishment of mutli-professional approved clinicians during the revision of the Mental Health Act – representing the Society at pre-reform discussions with the Department of Health and other professional bodies. After the Mental Health Act 2007 was implemented Bruce was one of the first ‘non-medical’ approved clinicians to be approved in the country. That was in 2010. He then advised the Society and Department of Health over many years on policy, training and guidance to support these important workforce developments.

Bruce continued to be involved nationally and locally in developing these new roles. Recently he was appointed an associate lecturer at Northumbria University Law School where he was a university mentor supporting trainee approved clinicians (locally and nationally) to successfully obtain their approval.

And, whilst Bruce’s achievements are hugely impressive, perhaps his most significant contribution over the last 23 years in the UK was as an expert, committed and compassionate clinical psychologist – and responsible clinician – who cared deeply for the welfare and wellbeing of the patients he worked with. Bruce was passionate, irreverent, funny and wise. His focus was always on doing his best to advocate for the patients he cared for and the staff he worked with, railing against the inequality and injustice they experienced, and improving the lives of, and services for our clients.

Though diminutive in stature, Bruce made an enormous contribution to the field of forensic clinical psychology in the UK. I was honoured to have worked alongside him and to count him as a loyal and courageous friend. 

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