Lives of the fellows

Gerard Samuel Crockett

b.3 May 1919 d.6 April 2001
MB BChir Cantab(1944) MRCS LRCP(1944) MRCP(1950) MD(1952) FRCP(1968)

Gerard 'Gee' Crockett was a splendid physician. At Kettering General Hospital, where he worked as a consultant, he opened and directed the intensive care unit (ICU) in 1962. This was probably the first of its kind in England and certainly the first in an English district general hospital. His happy enthusiasm, which inspired his colleagues, is best represented in his own words: 'The feeling of family and team at the Kettering hospital made it a joy to work there.' Gee's approachable manner gave confidence to his patients and the nurses and doctors associated with him.

Gerard Crockett was born Gerard Hutchinson, son of Samuel Hutchinson, consultant anaesthetist at UCH. He later adopted the maiden name of his mother, the daughter of Sir James Crockett. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge, where in 1951 he obtained an honours degree in the natural science tripos. In 1944 Gee married, qualified in medicine and was commissioned in the RAMC. He was posted to India, where he was joined by his wife who had enlisted for this purpose. In Poona he was anaesthetist to a thoracic unit and the British neurosurgical unit. Later he became senior medical specialist and substantive lieutenant colonel. He was demobilised in 1947.

By January 1948 he was house physician in the professorial medical unit of UCH. This was an interesting post for a lieutenant colonel, but in those days some colonels were pleased to be students. From 1950 he worked as medical registrar with Kenneth Harris, senior physician and cardiologist at UCH.

Appointed consultant physician, geriatrics, to the Northamptonshire area of the Oxford region in 1954, Crockett had the occupants of the county's 900 geriatric beds to supervise. New medical posts were created and in 1959 he relinquished his Northampton district responsibilities. He became consultant physician, general medicine, to the Kettering district in 1963.

On the advice of J O F Davies, SAMO Oxford region, a team from Kettering visited an ICU in Paris. In 1962 a small unit for the critically ill opened in the Kettering General Hospital. There were four beds, one in a sound-proofed, air-conditioned cubicle. The treatment was based on dedicated, near constant, nursing care and activity. Crockett, described in the hospital's history as 'a bright lateral thinker', was the ideal director for the unit with its complexity of treatments and liaisons with other specialists. He maintained his work as a consultant physician, whilst taking a full part in postgraduate education and hospital management, with continuing responsibility for the ICU, until his retirement from the NHS in 1981. His medical career was not yet complete. With his wife he journeyed to Iran, a country in dangerous social and political turmoil after the departure of the Shah. Here he worked as specialist physician at the Reza Shah hospital in Tehran.

His research and publications tended to deal with practical matters. This was in parallel with his work on the physiology of his critically ill patients. Related to this was his membership of the Medical Sub-Aqua Club. On occasion, in the depth of winter, he would join other enthusiasts and break the ice to swim beneath it in local gravel pits. He had a fine collection of jazz records, liked classical music and the study of the wild life in his garden. Gee's own modest claim to fame was that as a child he was patted on the head by Claude Monet at Giverny, and this gave him a lasting interest in painting.

Gee was devoted to his wife, Jo, and their three children, James, Desda and Dora. Gee and Jo moved to Christchurch, Dorset, where they enjoyed the company of the family and new activities. With his son James he cultivated an allotment, and grew organic vegetables. In the Autumn there were hunts for fungus in the New Forest as his interest in mycology began.

Gerard Crockett was a skilled and innovative physician who succeeded in balancing his clinical responsibilities with his family life. He was liked and respected by all who worked with him.

J R Pettman

(Volume XI, page 133)

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