Lives of the fellows

Eric Sherwood-Jones

b.26 March 1921 d.14 January 2012
MB ChB Liverp(1944) MRCP(1946) DTM&H(1953) PhD(1953) FRCP(1969)

Eric Sherwood-Jones was a consultant physician at Whiston Hospital, Merseyside, and a pioneer in the development of intensive care in the UK. He was born in Widnes, Lancashire, the fourth son of Albert Jones, a medical practitioner, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross in the First World War, and Ann Ivey Cooke. His brother, Albert Thelwall Jones [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.279] went on to become a specialist in industrial medicine. Sherwood-Jones attended Wade Deacon Grammar School in Widnes and then went on to study medicine at Liverpool University.

He qualified MB ChB in 1944 and then worked for the brilliant diagnostician and teacher Henry Cohen [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.106] at Liverpool Royal Infirmary, an experience which set him on a career as a physician. He gained his MRCP in 1946, and then extended his training by studying experimental medicine at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. From 1949 to 1954 he was a Medical Research Council grant holder and a lecturer.

His research centred on the carriage of oxygen and carbon dioxide by the blood; such expertise was later to prove 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 his diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene. From 1954 to 1960 he was a lecturer and then a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool. In 1960 he was appointed as a consultant physician at Whiston.

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 chronic 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 one local described it) 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, including traumas, asthma and poisoning, and the results soon established a national reputation. The team also 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 published several papers and wrote and edited three books: Essential intensive care (Lancaster MTP Press, c.1978), Intensive care (Lancaster, MTP, c.1982) and The really useful book on intensive care (Bolton-le-Sands, M Lister, 1998).

In addition to being an innovative physician, Sherwood-Jones was an outstanding clinical teacher and an accomplished lecturer; he was keen to fulfil Sir William Osler’s [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IV, p.295] dictum: ‘Through your students and your disciples will come your greatest honour’.

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. He regretted being a naive and a tactless negotiator.

He 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 1947 he married Joan Daphne Swan, who initiated radical reforms in nursing and pioneered the training of hospital staff in counselling. In 1994 Sherwood-Jones developed Wegener’s granulomatosis, which caused incapacity to a certain extent. He died in 2012, aged 90. He was survived by his wife, three children (Brian, David and Iona), two grandchildren (James and Georgina) and two great-grandchildren (Lucy and Amy).

Eric Sherwood-Jones

[BMJ 2012 344 1230; The St Helens Reporter – accessed 29 March 2014]

(Volume XII, page web)

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