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Biographical entry McNeill, Donald Cragg (1935 - 2005)

MRCS 1959; FRCS 1998; MB BS London 1958; DObst RCOG 1960; LRCP 1959; FRCS Edin 1968.

30 May 1935
16 October 2005
Plastic surgeon


Donald Cragg McNeill was a consultant plastic surgeon in Salisbury. He was born in 1935 and was educated at the Southern Grammar School, Portsmouth. He won a scholarship to study medicine and trained at St Mary's, qualifying in 1958. Most of his surgical training took place in the Wessex region, where he gained wide experience in all aspects of general surgery, orthopaedics, gynaecology and plastic surgery.

In 1960 he extended his National Service with a five-year commission in the RAF. His initial posting was to Halton as a trainee in general surgery, orthopaedics and gynaecology. He was then posted to the island of Gan in the Indian Ocean, where he was the only surgeon for 2,000 miles. He returned to the RAF hospital at Ely, and then had a further posting abroad to the Christmas Islands. In 1965 he left the RAF holding the rank of squadron leader.

He continued his general surgical training in Winchester, then began his plastic surgery training at Odstock 1967 with John Barron. He passed his Edinburgh fellowship in 1968. He rose from senior house officer to senior registrar, and then moved to the Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith, working with James Calnan in the department of experimental surgery.

In 1973 he was appointed as a consultant in plastic surgery to Odstock Hospital in Salisbury and as a senior lecturer to Southampton Medical School. He enjoyed integrating with other services, and was one of the first oncoplastic breast surgeons. He also developed an interest in the use of lasers in surgery, on which he became an international authority. In addition to this commitments in Wessex, he built up a practice in Jersey over 25 years. He enjoyed and was passionate about teaching, in the UK and also in India, where he helped train young surgeons in plastic surgery.

In the late seventies and eighties he led a group of consultants who wished to establish a private hospital in Salisbury. They formed the Salisbury Independent Hospital Trust, with Donald as the chairman. Fundraising and sponsorship enabled a property to be purchased and, after renovations, this became New Hall Hospital, which has continued to thrive.

Problems with silicone breast implants in the early nineties led the Department of Health to set up the National Breast Implant Registry at Odstock, with Donald as director. After his death the registry was discontinued: had it continued the failure of PIP implants, which eventually came to light in 2012, may have been recognised earlier.

In 1995 Donald was elected president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. His commitment to teaching and his leadership in plastic surgery was recognised by his election as a fellow ad eundem of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1998.

He was married and had three children, Andrew, Jane and John (who predeceased him). Donald died on 16 October 2005 at the age of 70 after a long fight with head and neck cancer, a disease which, ironically, he had spent many years treating. The Donald McNeill oncoplastic travelling scholarship was set up by the Association of Breast Surgery in his memory.

Brian Morgan

Sources used to compile this entry: [Andrew McNeill].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England