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Biographical entry Jayes, Percy Harris (1915 - 1997)

MRCS 1938; FRCS 1949; MB BS London 1938; LRCP 1938.

26 June 1915
17 January 1997
Plastic surgeon


Percy Jayes, an internationally known and respected plastic surgeon, was born on 26 June 1915, the first son of Thomas Harris Jayes, a butcher and farmer. His mother, Jessie May, was a daughter of a master mariner. He had one younger brother. Educated at Quernmore School, Bromley, and Merchant Taylors' School, he trained at St Bartholomew's Hospital, qualifying in 1938, where he held house posts in general surgery, orthopaedics and plastic surgery.

His adoption of plastic surgery as a career came about because of his appointment as resident medical officer to Archibald McIndoe at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead. McIndoe had been instructed to take control of this 'cottage' hospital and establish a centre for plastic surgery and jaw injuries. Huts added to the existing building included living accommodation for the resident officer, and are affectionately known as 'Percy Lodge' to this day. Archie McIndoe relied heavily on his able and stalwart assistant.

Percy Jayes remained at East Grinstead during the war years, assisting McIndoe with the influx of severely burned airmen (later the well-known 'Guinea Pig Club'). By this stage he was acting as a consultant, without his FRCS, and became surgeon in charge of the UNRA plastic surgery unit in Belgrade towards the end of the war. It was here he met his first wife Kathleen Harrington, a sister at the hospital, and married her in 1946.

He faced one problem with the coming of the NHS in 1948: despite his undoubted skills, with no higher surgical degrees in surgery he would be ineligible to retain his 'consultant' status. Percy passed both the primary and final Fellowship within a short space of time at the age of 34 years, and was formally confirmed as NHS consultant in 1949. Further appointments followed as consultant to St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1952 and civilian consultant to the RAF from 1960 to 1985. He joined the staff of King Edward VII Hospital for Officers, Beaumont Street, in 1966.

Percy Jayes was a founder member of the British Association of Plastic Surgeons in 1947, serving on the Council for two periods, from 1954 to 1957, and from 1964 to 1966, holding the office of President in 1960. Travelling widely throughout the world to meetings, he became one of Britain's best known plastic surgeons internationally. Although he seldom spoke at clinical meetings, he published many articles, including the second McIndoe Memorial Lecture given in 1965 at the Royal College entitled The establishment of the specialty of plastic surgery and its contribution to other specialties. Another series of articles involved the planning, design and provision for skin cover in the conjoined craniophagus twins, whose separation was carried out at St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1967. He was particularly expert in the design and management of cross-leg flaps.

Trainees absorbed his knowledge and meticulous surgical expertise by observation and example, rather than by verbal teaching. All through his career his ability to work long hours and his reputation for taking no risks with tissue viability were legendary.

After retirement from his NHS appointments in 1973, he continued in private practice until 1985, but he never lost touch with his many friends and ex-trainees from around the world. Lavish entertainment of friends and colleagues from home and abroad was enjoyed at his large property, Barton St Mary, a Lutyens house with extensive landscaped grounds on the outskirts of East Grinstead. He maintained the lawns himself, on one occasion inadvertently amputating some toes while driving a large mower. Gardening remained one of his hobbies, as did his love of antiques. He also acquired a house situated on a hillside overlooking the bay at Ocho Rios in Jamaica, where he was able to relax.

Following the untimely death of his first wife, by whom he had two sons and a daughter, he married Aileen McLaughlin, a hospital secretary in 1964. They had a son and daughter. He died on 17 January 1997.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Br J Plast Surg 1997 50 380-381, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England