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Biographical entry Payne, Richard Anthony (1921 - 2000)

MRCS 1948; FRCS 1952; MB BS London 1948; MS 1962; LRCP 1948.

17 July 1921
3 May 2000
General surgeon


Richard Anthony Payne, known to all as 'Tony', was a consultant general surgeon at the North Middlesex Hospital in London. He was born on 17 July 1921, in Worcester, the son of Herbert George Payne, a master at Haberdasher's Aske's School, and Jessica Sweeney. He was educated at his father's school and initially took up journalism, but later changed to medicine. In 1942 he entered Westminster Medical School, qualifying in 1948. He held a post as locum house surgeon at the Gordon Hospital (part of the Westminster group), and in 1951 was locum registrar to Sir Stanford Cade and Robert Cox. In 1957 he was appointed as senior registrar to the Royal Hospital, Sheffield, and in 1961 he was granted an MRC research fellowship there. He took his MS in 1962.

In 1963 he was appointed as consultant general surgeon to the North Middlesex Hospital, London, a hospital with a great surgical tradition, following the pioneering work of Ivor Lewis. Later he was appointed to the nearby Woodford Jubilee and Connaught Hospitals. In 1967, he also became honorary lecturer to the Postgraduate Hospital at Hammersmith, and consultant to the gastro-enterological research unit under Welbourn. The Woodford and Connaught Hospitals were closed in the 1970s, giving him time to be elected to the Court of Examiners, which he served with enthusiasm from 1976 to 1982. He served on the Medical Appeals Tribunal until 1992, having retired from the North Middlesex in 1986.

His high reputation was based on the twin pillars of ability and hard work. His boyish enthusiasm for operative surgery never left him and, when needed, he would perform twin (simultaneous) operations, with the help of his assistants. The length of his lists was legendary, and a record number of patients went through his firm year in and year out. On occasion he would enter the abdomen via a mid-line incision using just one stroke of the scalpel. He practised a wide range of 'soft-tissue surgery', but preferred his colleagues to look after bones and fractures. On the appointment of colleagues with special interests, he increasingly concentrated on intestinal surgery, which formed the subject of his main research.

Tony begrudged time spent attending committees. On a famous occasion, when chairman of the surgical division, he dissolved the division when the meeting failed to agree on a decision. Others had to heal the breech with the administration. On the other hand, in clinical review meetings based on X-rays or histology slides, he gave full support.

He taught operative surgery by example and his assistants, particularly the senior registrars on rotation from Bart's, gained much and he prepared them well for their future consultant work.

Surgical research was an abiding interest to him. He organised clinical trials, sadly few of which were published. Ten publications on gastric function studies and vagotomy assessment emerged from his work at Hammersmith. Perhaps his most valuable article advocated emergency cholecystectomy in acute cholecystitis.

In appearance he was a tall man, lean, with a mop of silver hair of reddish tinge, angular features and so often a ready chuckle, followed by a broad smile on recalling a humorous episode. He was usually good-humoured, but his critical sense was easily roused by officialdom and bureaucracy. He had integrity, which made him a good friend and colleague, and was independent, which led him to stand up for what he believed in, despite contrary pressures. He served his patients and hospital well.

He converted his old manor house into a gracious home of character, made beautiful with an exceptional collection of ceramics. Gardening he took to near fanatical limits, looking after an acre of garden. In retirement he studied the East India Company, but did not publish his findings. He died from carcinoma of the prostate on 3 May 2000, aged 78, and is survived by his wife Betty, née Powe, a community paediatrician, and their four children, Ann, John, Mark and Helen.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Information from Helen Payne, John Beaugie, Rodney Croft and Miles Irving].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England