Lives of the fellows

Thomas Richard Littler

b.14 April 1923 d.22 December 2001
MB ChB Liverp(1945) MRCS LRCP(1946) MRCP(1948) MD(1950) FRCP(1973)

Tom Littler was a distinguished physician in Birkenhead, Wirral, with a special interest in rheumatology to which he devoted the greater part of his career. He was ideally suited to his profession: in addition to an enquiring and research orientated mind, he had a quiet and confident manner and an ability to make each patient feel that he was their own personal private physician.

Tom Littler was born in Liverpool, but spent his childhood on the North Wales coast at Rhos on Sea and was educated at Colwyn Bay Grammar School. He went up to Liverpool University in 1939 and qualified in 1945.

After doing house at Birkenhead General and David Lewis Northern Hospital he began to specialise in medicine, and occupied senior training appointments at the David Lewis Northern Hospital and the Regional Cardiac Centre at Sefton General Hospital. He obtained his MRCP only some three years after qualifying, and his MD only two years later. He became a Fellow of the College and was a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.

His first consultant appointment was at Ormskirk Hospital where he undertook clinical work. The job was combined with a research post at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. This must have involved a great deal of travelling, but Tom had an enquiring mind and was always keen to do research. However, after a short time in that job he migrated to the Wirral where he developed his rheumatological interest, which thereafter was to be his chief medical work.

He established a rheumatoid clinic at Birkenhead General Hospital but there were no designated in-patient beds. However, Leasowe Hospital, which had been a children's sanatorium for TB, was becoming under-used, with the decline in that disease. In 1954 Tom was offered four beds at Leasowe Hospital for his rheumatoid patients, and from this small beginning he established a unit that was to become the Liverpool Regional Rheumatology Centre.

Tom put a great deal of work into developing this project at Leasowe Hospital. Combined clinics (with physician and surgeon working together) were established and a comprehensive rheumatological service, which included medical and surgical treatment and extensive rehabilitation, was developed. It even included an orthotics department where splints could be made.

Teaching was not forgotten: Tom was an excellent teacher and this was recognised by Liverpool University, which sent both undergraduates and postgraduate students to Leasowe. In addition, time was also found in a busy life for research and Tom made many contributions to the rheumatology literature, particularly on rheumatoid arthritis. He played a considerable part in medical administration and chaired a variety of local and regional committees. He also served on the Hoylake Urban District Council for three years as a councillor.

Outside medicine he found time for his hobbies of gardening and playing the organ, and in his earlier days had been a keen tennis player. He had an interest in football, and was for a long time a supporter of Tranmere Rovers Football Club.

However, he will be chiefly remembered as a distinguished and kindly physician who, through his work in developing Leasowe Hospital as a rheumatology centre, brought the benefits of a comprehensive medical, surgical and rehabilitative programme to a vast number of rheumatoid patients.

Howard Beddow

[Brit.med.J., 2002,325,394]

(Volume XI, page 339)

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