Published on: 9 April 2024

A doctor who has helped diagnose tens of thousands of patients over more than 40 years of working for the NHS has thanked his colleagues as he begins his retirement.

Dr Lance Cope worked as a Consultant Radiologist at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

This role has seen him use and review tests such as X-rays and CT scans to diagnose conditions and injuries and decide on the right treatment for a patient.

His time with the NHS has also seen him work as an Interventional Radiologist and he played a key part in introducing new procedures in South Tyneside.

This saved people from travelling elsewhere in the region for these appointments and saw less invasive methods used, which means they had a shorter recovery time.

He trained as a doctor at Cambridge University, where his met his wife Hilary, a Geordie, and at St Mary’s Hospital in London.

To be able to become a doctor specialising in radiology, he did further general medical training in Newcastle and in London before joining the radiology training scheme in Newcastle in 1984.

He first began working in South Shields in 1988 as a senior registrar, joining consultant Dr Henry Loose to perform angiography at the Ingham Infirmary.

Dr Lance Cope, Bronia Fleet, then Radiology Manager, and a patient in one of the earlier scanners used at South Tyneside District Hospital..JPG

Dr Lance Cope, Bronia Fleet, then Radiology Manager, and a patient in one of the earlier scanners used at South Tyneside District Hospital.

He settled into life as an honorary Sanddancer after being made welcome by the team and the wider staff and being impressed by their drive to develop services for the community. He became a Consultant Radiologist the next year.

At that point, there were two hospitals in South Shields, the Ingham Infirmary as well as South Tyneside General Hospital. The hospitals were merged in 1990 with the development of South Tyneside District Hospital.

He has seen its work develop from a small X-ray service which used film and had access to basic ultrasound systems to a department with the latest technology at its fingertips, with the hospital now home to MRI and CT scanners.

To mark his years with the NHS, colleagues gathered to wish him well as he begun his retirement.

Dr Shaz Wahid, the Executive Medical Director of STSFT, with Dr Lance Cope and colleagues at his retirement celebration..JPG

Dr Shaz Wahid, the Executive Medical Director of STSFT, with Dr Lance Cope and colleagues at his retirement celebration.

As he completed his final days in his role, Dr Cope hailed the smaller size of the South Tyneside hospital as one of its strengths, adding this had helped through its “camaraderie, teamwork and unbelievable devotion of the staff at the hospital towards our patients which has never ceased to amaze and impress me.”

He added:

"I have been privileged to work with fantastic colleagues throughout my career, my GP and hospital colleagues, fellow radiologists, our excellent radiography team, nurses, helpers, secretaries and office staff.

"We always encouraged our clinical teams to come and discuss their cases with us and to help us offer the best possible service to our patients, which I know they greatly appreciate. 

"My greatest pleasure at work is meeting and talking to our patients, the radiology team and my clinical colleagues so I have never wanted to work remotely from home.

"I would like to offer my thanks to all the amazing staff I have worked with over the years. 

"You made it such a pleasure to come to work and I have loved working for such a fantastic supportive organisation.

"I suppose I will be remembered as the eccentric cyclist who bikes in all weathers but it is great to get some fresh air after being inside all day."

In retirement, Dr Cope intends to spend more time on his bike, travelling, walking, playing golf and bridge and looking after his grandchildren.

Vicky Mitchell is the Trust’s Divisional Director of Clinical Support, which includes its radiology services.

She said:

"We are very sad to be saying goodbye to Dr Cope, but very lucky that our hospital and local population has benefitted from his expertise and knowledge for such a long time.

"Caring for our patients is a team effort and I would echo his words about our fantastic Radiology Department. Diagnostic imaging is growing in demand and complexity as technology and skills advance. 

"Dr Cope has seen the service through huge transformation and growth and he is absolutely right that the key to getting the most benefit from these changes lies in the strong teamwork and commitment to doing what is right for the patients.

"Dr Cope’s legacy will live on through the people he has inspired over the wonderful years he’s had with us.

"He will be greatly missed, but very fondly remembered.

"We wish him every happiness as he begins his retirement."

Colleagues at STSFT gather to celebrate Dr Lance Cope's retirement..JPG

Colleagues at STSFT gathered to celebrate Dr Lance Cope's retirement.

Earlier this year Dr Cope travelled alongside NHS colleagues from his Trust and others in the North East and further afield to India to help deliver training and care as part of the SVJC Trust charity. He remains a trustee of the charity and it was his 13th visit to the hospital since 2004.

More about the Trust’s Radiology services can be found through