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Biographical entry Bailey, John Stuart (1932 - 2016)

BChir Cambridge 1958; MRCS LRCP 1958; MB 1959; DTM&H 1960; FRCS 1964.

29 September 1932
18 September 2016
Cardiothoracic surgeon, General surgeon and Thoracic surgeon


John Stuart Bailey (or 'JCB') was a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon in Leicester. He was born in Jerusalem, Palestine, and spent his early years in Cairo, before being evacuated in 1940 to Durban and on to England. He was educated at Sherborne School, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and St Mary's Hospital Medical School.

After house jobs, he started National Service and converted to a short service commission with the RAMC. He saw active service during the Brunei Revolt as a surgeon in a Far East field surgical team.

On his return to the UK from Singapore, he worked as a general surgeon, before joining Charles Drew at St George's Hospital as a thoracic registrar. He subsequently spent 11 years as a registrar and then a senior registrar in thoracic and cardiac surgery at Westminster Hospital. During this time, he spent a year (from 1970 to 1971) at Toronto General Hospital working with W G Bigelow.

Finding a consultant post in the mid 1970s was difficult and required resilience: JSB finally escaped London for Leicester in 1977. He enjoyed a happy and successful career until his retirement in 1995.

JSB was part of a major transition generation in cardiac surgery. Beyond the early pioneers, he and his generation established safe and routine cardiac surgery. An early medical manager, he strove to understand the true costs of NHS care and pushed for honest, open and comprehensive reporting of outcomes. He was prepared to tackle controversy. On one occasion, he challenged coronary surgery in those who continued to smoke, provoking an aggressive public debate ('Coronary bypass surgery should not be offered to smokers' BMJ 1993 306 1047).

He believed fervently in the NHS and social model of health care. He did not like the effect 'for profit' health care had on services and some surgeons. His beliefs and principles sometimes put him at loggerheads with parts of the surgical community. He reminded me, as a trainee general surgeon, when I was struggling with confidence after an unpleasant session with a trainer, not to become an egotistical, self-congratulatory surgeon. 'Remember' he said, '…it is the patients who are being brave!'

He was president of the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland, and president of the Society of Clinical Perfusion Scientists, having helped the perfusionists establish a professional structure.

JSB was made an honorary fellow of the Polish College of Surgeons in 1987. In 1992, he received further recognition for his work with Polish cardiac surgeons, with an award from the Bruckner Foundation. He and his wife had many happy visits to Poland and made many friends.

Retirement did not create a void. He announced within weeks that he did not understand how he ever had time to go to work! Golf, genealogy, an amazing photographic record of butterfly life cycles, travel, community, friends and a growing extended family filled a healthy and happy retirement which lasted more than 20 years.

John Stuart Bailey died suddenly, at home, on 18 September 2016, just short of his 83rd birthday. He was survived by his wife of 58 years, Alison, three children and 10 grandchildren. His ashes will be scattered in Kintyre, Argyll and Bute, his beloved holiday retreat of 44 years.

Ian Bailey

The Royal College of Surgeons of England