Jean Lesley Baker

President of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society

1991 - 1992

Lesley Baker, President of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society for 1991-92, coming from a family with a strong medical background was born in Winterton, North Lincolnshire where her grandfather, great-aunt and both parents were doctors and a brother also became a general practitioner

Brought up during World War II, she went to boarding school, firstly at Ackworth, a Quaker School, and then, for nine years, to Penrhose College for girls, a Methodist School in Colwyn Bay and Chatsworth. Following her parents example she entered Sheffield University to study medicine, qualifying MB, ChB in 1954.

Her pre-registration post whereat the Sheffield Royal Infirmary where she worked for those stalwarts of the Sheffield medical scene in the 1950s and 60s – Dr Skipper, Dr Clifford Jones and Mr Derek Randall. At this stage in her career she had virtually decided on a career in general practice and with this aim in view, took up the obstetric post in Leamington Spa before returning to Sheffield to work at the Children's Royal Hospital with Professor Illingworth. After a period of doing locums in North Lincolnshire she decided that further education in Obstetrics and Gynaecology would be useful in general practice in rural England, particularly as family doctors were still performing many domiciliary deliveries.

This proved to be the turning point in Miss Baker's career and after a year as senior house officer with the formidable Gladys Dodds at the Mile End Hospital, London, she became a registrar at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. With Obstetrics and Gynaecology now well and truly in her sights she returned to the Jessop Hospital for Women in Sheffield for further training, including a spell in Gynaecological Pathology. Having obtained Membership of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1962 she joined the University Department of Obstetrics under Prof Scott Russell and Sir Jack Dewhurst as a lecturer.

In 1965 Lesley Baker was appointed as Consultant Obstetrician for Nottingham City Hospital, the Firs Maternity Home, and Grantham and Kesteven Hospital. She remained at the City Hospital for the next 30 years, but, after local staff appointments, she left Grantham in 1973. During the 1960s and early 1970s, all active Obstetrics and Gynaecology was carried out by the consultants at the City Hospital – Mr Cochrane, Mr Barkla and Miss Baker, together with the consultants at Peel Street – Mr Maxwell, Mrs Marrow, Mr Sears and Mr Barkla. The various consultants at the City Hospital and Peel Street covered outlying hospitals at Newark, Mansfield, Heanor and Ilkeston and the Firs and Highbury. The General Practitioners and midwives did a considerable amount of domiciliary work and there was still a 40% home delivery rate; there was an active GP Obstetric group.

The arrival of the new medical school in the early 1970s changed the scene in Nottingham considerably. A new University Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology headed by Professor Malcolm Symonds was initially established at the City Hospital and a new Obstetric Unit was opened on the campus in 1972. A further new unit was opened a few years later at the Queens medical Centre to which Professor Symonds moved. Following these developments hospital confinement rose in the area to 99% and gradually the peripheral units closed as active obstetric units. From the 1970s onwards the consultant staff in the Nottingham area expanded enormously. However General Practitioners retained access to Obstetric beds at the City Hospital for many years. The flying squads, which had been functioning until the mid-1970s, were gradually dismantled with their place being taken by Paramedical Emergency Ambulance Teams.

Throughout her consultant career Miss Baker continued to practice general obstetrics and gynaecology with oncology and fertility work. She was highly respected, not only as a skilled gynaecologist, but also as a caring doctor who always put her needs of her patients first. She would appear in the wards at any time, day or night, without warning. If she had a fault it was with her punctuality was not always perfect!

Deprived of work after her retirement from the NHS in September 1995, she went out a month later, to work as a voluntary Locum Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at a small Roman Catholic mission Hospital called Kitovu in Uganda. Over the next six years she worked out there for 6 to 8 weeks at a time doing very active Obstetrics and Gynaecology with such problems as malaria, HIV, and obstructed labour being everyday events. In 1997 she became involved further with the obstetrical and surgical skills course in Dilla, run by Abergavenny Hospital. She was an active member of the Jima group from the City Hospital which supported the medical school in Ethiopia and she visited several times to teach and to operate. These visits were much appreciated by those involved.

In the time that was left in her professional career Miss Baker enjoyed sailing, wildflowers, cooking, gardening and entertaining – and very positively keeping in contact with her family and the younger generations. Sadly medicine is now training few surgeons with the commitment, virtuosity and stammer shown by Lesley Baker.

SURGEONS Nottinghams Eminent Surgeons and Physicians