Dr Sherwood-Jones - 1921 to 2001

In retirement - Eric Sherwood-Jones making model steam trains with wife Joan
In retirement - Eric Sherwood-Jones making model steam trains with wife Joan
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DR Eric Sherwood-Jones passed away after a long battle with illness - here is the obituary he wrote himself when he was first diagnosed 18 years ago.

Eric Sherwood-Jones died in Prescot, Merseyside on 14 January 2012 aged 90. He was born on March 26, 1921. Sherwood-Jones was a pioneer of intensive care in the UK. He also made significant contributions to clinical science.

Despite this specialisation he insisted that he was one of the last general physicians. Sherwood-Jones was the fourth son of Albert Jones, DSO, MC, MD, DPH and Ann Ivey Cooke.

The family settles in the industrial town of Widnes and were committed to public health and industrial medicine.

He qualified MB ChB in 1944 and then worked for the brilliant diagnostician and teacher Professor Henry Cohen (later Lord Cohen of Birkenhead), an experience which set him on a career as a physician.

The MRCP was acquired eighteen months after qualification. Sherwood-Jones then extended his training by studying experimental medicine at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

The research centred on the carriage of oxygen and carbon dioxide by the blood; such expertise was later to prove itself invaluable for intensive care.

Two observations on non-nucleated red blood cells stood the test of time; the presence of the Krebs cycle and the quantitative separation of high energy phosphate compounds by chromatography. In 1953 Sherwood-Jones gained a PhD and the DTM & H; the examinations were held in the same week, which appealed to his sense of humour.

He was then appointed lecturer in medicine and physician to a large district hospital at Whiston, Merseyside.

The huge turnover of patients, minimal administrative obstruction, enthusiasm and boundless energy led to the development of intensive care and to systematic clinical research; the two were closely integrated. One of the first problems to be tackled was chromic bronchitis leading to severe disability and death due to respiratory and heart failure.

The acute exacerbations were analysed and novel methods were devised to assess the effects of the lung disease on the heart. Intensive Care (or expensive care as he heard a local describe it one day) was started in 1962, inspired by the American concept of progressive patient care.

The essentials for success were a nursing team, a group of physicians, anaesthetists and scientists and standardised methods.

A great variety of conditions were admitted-traumas, asthma, poisoning and the results soon established a national reputation.

The team pioneered methods for assessing and maintaining metabolism. Not content with devising methods for rescuing the moribund asthmatic, the group unravelled the altered physiology and discovered how intensive care maintained life until the disease remitted.

It was then shown that patient education and early intervention could reduce disability and avoid the need for life support. Sherwood-Jones cherished the friendship of the Intensive Care nurses, the respect of so many patients and fully appreciated the support given by local charities.

Diplomas by thesis were obtained and two books and numerous papers were published.

In addition to innovation, Sherwood-Jones was an outstanding clinical teacher and accomplished lecturer; he was keen to fulfil Osler’s dictum: “Through your students and your disciples will come your greatest honour”.

He regretted being a naive and a tactless negotiator. Sherwood-Jones enjoyed many years of active retirement, attending the theatre at Clwyd and Stratford upon Avon and pursuing his love of mechanical engineering, completing a model steam train now operating in a park in Lancashire.

In 1994 he developed Wegener’s granuloma which caused incapacity to a certain extent but his very survival was due to his previous strong constitution. Sherwood-Jones married in 1947 Joan Daphne Swan, who initiated radical reforms in nursing and pioneered the training of hospital staff in counselling.

She survives him together with their three children, Brian, David and Iona, grandchildren James and Georgina, and great-grandchildren Lucy and Amy.