St Helens and Knowsley Teaching HospitalsNHS Trust


History of Whiston Intensive Care

Intensive care at Whiston has a proud and long history and represents today the efforts of many doctors, nurses and allied professionals working together to create a little bit of history to be proud of.

The speciality of Intensive Care is generally recognised as having started in 1952 associated with the polio epidemic in Copenhagen. This showed that prolonged artificial ventilation could greatly improve the outcome of such serious life-threatening illness. In 1958 a 3 bedded Respiratory Unit was established using two side wards on Ward E3 at Whiston Hospital. Artificial respiration using an East Radcliffe anaesthetic ventilator was successfully introduced.

In 1962 a submission to the Hospital Management Committee and the Regional Hospital Board to establish an Intensive Care Area on Ward G16 was made. This was chosen as the Clinical Research Laboratory which produced much original research was already sited on G16. The Minister of Health approved the plan in September 1963 and £5280 was allocated. Work was completed in March 1964. The unit comprised 8 beds. Interestingly at the same time an “Accident Ward” (G13) was also established with the intention to concentrate the severely injured in one place, avoid the cancellation of waiting list patients and minimise disturbance to other patients at night. In 1966 in the Journal Thorax a paper on the management of severe crush injuries of the chest was published, of the 6 cases described 2 survived which was, at the time, a measure of success!

During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the Unit was lead by Dr E Sherwood-Jones who was a physician. He was a founding member and later became the President of the UK Intensive Care Society. With a single handed dedication to the critically ill Dr Sherwood-Jones has left an important legacy. The Unit was also very active in nursing education and delivered Intensive Care Nursing Courses for many years until this was taken up by national bodies. The fundamental belief was “the right patient in the right place at the right time”, as true today as it was then. Many other papers and publications on the management of Asthma, nutrition, pancreatitis and the development of biochemical analysis were published and a number of MD Thesis’ completed by doctors associated with the Unit and Clinical Research Laboratory.

Among his medical trainees was a Dr Steve Atherton who later became consultant in intensive care medicine in 1979, and published an important research on the association between germs in the stomach and pneumonia. He later became the first medical director of the Hospital. Dr Atherton was joined in 1984 when Dr Robin Macmillan was appointed as consultant in intensive care and anaesthesia.



Dr Macmillan had also trained under Sherwood-Jones holding many posts at Whiston and in later years he also became Medical director of the Hospital after Dr Atherton and served for some 11 years. Steve and Robin were a formidable intensive care duo and together initially also helped run accident and emergency and then develop the Emergency medicine service. They understood the need for research in the critically ill and in 1985 Dr Richard Griffiths joined as an honorary consultant in intensive care medicine and then a new Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool.

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