Lives of the fellows

Peter John Firth Baskett

b.26 July 1934 d.18 April 2008
BA Cantab(1955) MB BCh BAO Queen’s(1958) MB BCh Cantab(1959) FFARCS(1963) FRCA(1992) MRCP(1994) Hon FFAEM(1999) FRCP(1999)

Peter Baskett was one of the world’s leading figures in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and pre-hospital medical care. In the early 1970s, along with Douglas Chamberlain, he developed advanced training for ambulance personnel, who then became the first paramedics in Europe. Peter was also responsible for introducing premixed nitrous oxide/oxygen (Entonox) for use as an analgesic into the ambulance service in the United Kingdom in 1970.

Peter Baskett was born in Belfast, the son of Sir Ronald Gilbert Baskett, chief scientific officer for the Ministry of Agriculture for Northern Ireland, and Lady Joan Shirley Staples née Firth. He undertook preclinical studies at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and then completed his undergraduate training at Queen’s University, Belfast. His initial postgraduate training, including his first post in anaesthesia, was at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. In 1962, Peter moved to Bristol, where he completed his anaesthetic training at United Bristol Hospitals and Frenchay Hospital. He was appointed as a consultant anaesthetist to United Bristol Hospitals and Frenchay Hospital in 1966, a position he held until his retirement from clinical practice in 1999. Peter established the intensive care unit at Frenchay Hospital in May 1967.

In 1970, Peter started to provide extended training to ambulance crews enabling them to man a mobile resuscitation unit (MRU) in Bristol that carried not only Entonox, but also defibrillators and equipment to record and transmit electrocardiograms from ambulance to hospital, an innovation years ahead of its time. This concept, together with schemes in a few centres in the United States and an additional centre in Brighton, led to the development of paramedics. Peter was a founder member and chairman (from 1981 to 1985) of the British Association for Immediate Care Schemes (BASICS). He was also a founder member of a committee that in 1981 evolved from BASICS – the Community Resuscitation Advisory Committee (CRAC). This committee became the Resuscitation Council (UK) – the first Resuscitation Council in Europe. Peter was one of the founding members of the European Resuscitation Council (ERC) and was elected chairman (from 1989 to 1994). He published more than 100 papers on CPR and airway management. In 2005, in recognition of Peter’s international contributions to CPR, the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) honoured him as a ‘resuscitation giant’. He was editor-in-chief of the journal Resuscitation from 1997 until his death. During his ‘retirement’, Peter personally introduced the European Advanced Life Support (ALS) course into 22 countries.

Peter was elected to the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) council in 1976 and held several positions before becoming president in 1990. His contributions were recognised in 1998 when he was awarded the John Snow medal. He spent 12 years on the council of the (now) Royal College of Anaesthetists. As the College’s representative on the Board of the Faculty of Accident and Emergency Medicine, Peter was the key person at the interface between anaesthesia and emergency medicine as the latter evolved into an independent specialty. In 1999, he was awarded an honorary fellowship (FFAEM) in recognition of this achievement. In the same year, he was elected a Fellow by the Royal College of Physicians, having been elected a member in 1994.

Peter was president of the united services section of the Royal Society of Medicine (1997), the World Association for Emergency and Disaster Medicine (from 1989 to 1993), the International Trauma Anaesthesia and Critical Care Society (from 1995 to 1998) and the Triservice Society of Anaesthetists (1994 to 1995). He was made an honorary life member of the AAGBI, BASICS, the ERC, the Resuscitation Council (UK), the Society of Anaesthetists of the South West Region, the Australian Society of Anaesthetists, the Society of Naval Anaesthetists, the Ugandan Society of Anaesthetists, the Romanian Association for Emergency and Disaster Medicine, the Slovenian Society for Emergency Medicine and the Polish Resuscitation Council.

Peter joined the medical section of the Territorial Army (RAMC) in 1983, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1987 and was made colonel and commanding officer of 219 Wessex Field Hospital in 1992. Peter was influential in the development of trauma services in the UK: he set up a strong alliance with the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, USA, which provided unique training opportunities for many British anaesthetists, several of whom were military doctors. In 1988, Peter was among the first group of doctors in the UK to be trained as an advanced trauma life support (ATLS) course instructor and was one of the leaders of this course in the south west.

Peter had a keen interest in motor sport – he raced minis in the 1950s. He was appointed as chief medical officer to Castle Combe Circuit, Wiltshire, in 1968 and continued to attend motor sport events as a doctor until he became ill in 2007.

Peter married four times. He was survived by his wife Fiona née Gilroy, also a doctor, a son Simon and daughters Lucy, Olivia and Beatrice. His memorial service was held in Bristol Cathedral in September 2008 and was attended by more than 800 friends and colleagues.

Jerry P Nolan

[The Times 20 May 2008; The Guardian 13 June 2008; Brit.med.J.,2008,336,1254; Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, Vol.24, No.2, p.82-85 (http://pdm.medicine.wisc.edu); Journal of the Intensive Care Society, Vol.10, No.1, Jan 2009, p.78]

(Volume XII, page web)

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