Lives of the fellows

Kenneth Hubert Slatter

b.5 April 1921 d.2 August 2013
MB ChB Liverp(1943) MRCP(1951) MD(1957) FRCP(1971)

Kenneth Slatter was a consultant neurologist at Walton Hospital, Liverpool. He was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, the son of Henry Slatter, a bank manager, and Irene Margaret Slatter née Hudson. Kenneth’s father died when he was only three and, the family moved to Southport to be near his grandparents. Educated at King George V Grammar School, he went on to the University of Liverpool, having decided from an early age that he wanted to be a doctor.

He qualified during the Second World War and, after six months as a house physician at Liverpool Royal Infirmary to Ernest Noble Chamberlain [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.97] and Henry Wallace-Jones [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.433], he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany.

Following his demobilisation, he worked at Broadgreen Hospital as a senior house officer to Eric Baker-Bates [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.14] and then moved to Walton Hospital in 1949. He considered a career in paediatrics, but was advised by Norman Capon [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.89] that, ideally, paediatricians should be married. Kenneth thought this too high a price to pay!

As a registrar he was inspired by the teaching of Sir Henry Cohen (later Lord Cohen) [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.106] and developed an interest in neurology. Lord Cohen appointed him as a lecturer in medicine at the University of Liverpool, a post he held from 1954 to 1960. During this time he wrote his MD thesis on the interaction of the body and the mind, and became interested in electromyography (EEGs). He travelled to Queen Square and the Maudsley, and later also learnt about the new techniques of electroencephalography (EMGs) and nerve conduction studies. These were the days before diagnostic techniques using computerised tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Kenneth would think very carefully before subjecting patients to unpleasant investigations such as air encephalography.

Kenneth was appointed as a consultant neurologist at Walton hospital in 1960. It was a part-time appointment, but the needs of the community meant that he rapidly developed it into a full-time post. He worked alongside A S Kerr, the senior neurosurgeon, and Robert Hughes [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.253], a general physician with an interest in neurology who attended a large number of hospitals around Merseyside. Kenneth, aided by Irene Mills, established the EEG service, battling with the Liverpool Regional Hospital Board for equipment and proper training for the technicians. Referrals came from many physicians around Liverpool and north Wales who wanted a neurological opinion. Such was his expertise that if asked for a neurological opinion on a patient on a medical ward, he might also offer well-received advice on the general medical condition of the patient. He built up the neurology department from one full and one very part-time consultant, to four consultants, a senior lecturer and a neurophysiologist, together with junior doctors and technical staff. As the team grew an outreach service developed and Kenneth undertook clinics at Clatterbridge.

Kenneth was a quiet person, but was excellent company with a great sense of humour. He was always impeccably dressed and could be recognised from a distance in a suit, with his silver hair and very shiny shoes.

He became a member of the Liverpool Medical Institution and the Association of British Neurologists, and was a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine. His publications included a chapter on encephalography in the British encyclopaedia of medical practice: medical progress (London, Butterworths, 1960), ‘Alpha rhythms and mental imagery’ (Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 1960 Nov;12[4]:851-9) and ‘Some clinical and EEG findings in patients with migraine’ (Brain 1968 Mar;91[1]:85-98).

Kenneth was a life-long bachelor, who lived with and cared for his mother until her death at the age of 96. He loved the Lake District and spent many holidays walking the fells. In 1975 he moved from Southport to Neston on the Wirral. His home in Neston had a garden of nearly two acres and Kenneth set about transforming it. Gardening was his main hobby and passion in his later years. Following his retirement in 1983 he spent most of his time either in the garden or planning the next development for it. He did it all on his own, producing a garden that rivalled the nearby Ness Botanic Gardens. He was particularly interested in growing camellias, rhododendrons and roses, and delighted in showing visitors new specimens. He was busy outdoors up until the day he died. Kenneth enjoyed his interests and pleasures, whether a new car, listening to classical music on his sophisticated sound system, or the occasional glass of fine wine.

He was an outstanding doctor who inspired loyalty and affection from all who worked with him. One of his former registrars, R Lynch, summed him up, saying: ‘I don’t think I ever worked for or with anyone more pleasant or considerate.’ He was survived by his elder brother, Brian Hudson Slatter, a nephew and three nieces.

Mary Slatter

[Brit.med.J., 2013 347 6984]

(Volume XII, page web)

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