Lives of the fellows

Christopher Thomas Blaiklock

b.22 July 1936 d.8 February 2018
MB BS Durh(1961) DObst(1963) MRCP(1966) FRCS(1970) FRCP(1986)

Christopher Thomas Blaiklock, known as Chris, was a consultant neurosurgeon at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and one of those unusual creatures – a surgeon who was also a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

He was born and raised in Northumbria. His parents, Thomas Snowdon Blaiklock and Constance Rebecca Blaiklock née Caris, were both doctors. He was educated at Oundle School and was then conscripted to do National Service in the Royal Navy. Despite his subsequent achievements, he always said that his greatest promotion was from ordinary seaman to able-bodied seaman, because it depended entirely on merit. After leaving the Navy, he went on to study medicine at Durham University.

After qualifying in 1961, he was influenced by his medical house officer post with the Newcastle neurologist, John Walton [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web]. His original intention was to pursue a career in medicine. Having gained his MRCP, he came to believe that, with the resources currently available, he could achieve more for his patients as a surgeon. He did his basic surgical training in Cardiff and decided on a career in neurosurgery which, at the time, could not be said to be the most successful of surgical specialties, but he was fortunate to be regularly in the right place at the right time. He was a neurosurgery registrar at the Atkinson Morley Hospital, which was famous (or notorious) for giving a rigorous training. While he was there the first CT scanner in the world was installed and Chris was among the first neurosurgeons to experience the revolutionary transformation of neurological imaging and the huge improvement that brought to the patients’ experience of neurological diagnosis.

In 1972, he was appointed as a senior registrar in neurosurgery in Glasgow with Bryan Jennet at a time when Glasgow was being recognised as a centre of excellence in neurosurgical research. The first CT scanner in Scotland was installed in Glasgow during his training there.

In 1974, he was appointed as a consultant neurosurgeon at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. He was only the third neurosurgeon in Aberdeen after Martin Nichols and Bob Fraser. The department covered the whole of the north of Scotland, including the Northern and Western Isles. In addition to providing a comprehensive neurosurgery service, the department housed, prior to the advent of intensive care units, the only ventilation unit in the region and the two neurosurgeons were responsible for its management along with a single trainee. Chris brought his experience of CT imaging and saw the installation of the first CT scanner in Aberdeen. He introduced the operating microscope and effectively brought neurosurgery in Aberdeen into the modern era. When the world’s first MR scanner was built and became available for clinical use, Chris was the first neurosurgeon in the world to employ it and gain experience in its use in neurosurgery.

Chris’ diagnostic skills were evidence of his broad general knowledge. For many years the neurosurgeons in Aberdeen also offered the out of hours neurology service, handing patients over to the well-rested neurologists in the morning.

Chris often remarked that he could just as easily have enjoyed being an engineer. He had a fascination for how things worked. He carried a skill with tools and his manual dexterity into his operative surgery. He was a true craftsman. His operative surgery was calm, precise and quick, and an inspiration to his trainees.

He was an NHS partisan. Despite a heavy workload, his waiting times were negligible and he was offended on occasions when it was suggested to him that he might see a patient privately. He was intensely proud of the local service and of the beautiful territory he served. He enjoyed demonstrating the extent of the territory he covered by placing a pair of compasses on Aberdeen and passing it through his most distant centre of habitation – one of the North Sea oil platforms. The circle described passed through Watford.

He contributed extensively to NHS administration both locally and nationally. With the introduction of clinical management, he became director of surgery for Grampian – a post he accepted without dropping any clinical sessions.

He lacked self-importance or pomposity and was genuinely interested in people and their occupations and he was always available. For a year while the other consultant post was unfilled he provided the service single-handed.

He will be remembered with great affection by former patients, colleagues in all health professions and by his trainees who have occupied consultant posts in Scotland and in other countries. He was survived by his wife Judith, an anaesthetist, and by his son, Ian and daughter, Fiona.

David Currie

[ Royal College of Surgeons Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows Blaiklock, Christopher Thomas – accessed 11 June 2019; BMJ 2018 360 1294 – accessed 11 June 2019; The Press and Journal (Moray) 2 April 2018 – accessed 11 June 2019]

(Volume XII, page web)

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