93-year-old surgeon shares ‘Tales of the Operating Theatre’

A 93-year-old surgeon who joined the NHS in its first month has launched a new book bringing to life significant medical moments from throughout history and his 71 years in practice.

Professor Harold Ellis CBE launched the book entitled Tales of the Operating Theatre and other essays’, as part of the AfPP annual Residential Conference held in York on 10 August 2019.

Based on a collection of Ellis’ previously written journal papers, including the popular Surgical Firsts, The Name Behind the Instrument and Notable Women, the book comprises first-hand accounts of some of the most remarkable moments in medical history.

From Horatio Nelson’s famous amputation through to the introduction of anaesthesia and Marie Curie’s discovery of radium, the easy-to-read book will appeal to everyone, regardless of their association with the perioperative environment.

Gina Graydon, editorial assistant at AfPP who has been helping Harold with the publishing of his book said: “Professor Ellis has been writing for the AfPP Journal of Perioperative Practice for over 20 years and never fails to deliver a well written and interesting paper.

“We decided to provide him with the practical support required to release a book so that those outside of the operating theatre professions could enjoy his stories.”

“He really is a remarkable character, and this really comes to light throughout the entirety of his book.”

Professor Ellis, who was awarded a CBE for his services to surgery in 1987, first qualified in medicine at the University of Oxford in 1948, the very year and month that the National Health Service came into existence.

After spending two years training as a house surgeon in Oxford, he went on to practice as a graded surgical specialist in the Royal Army Medical Corps until 1952.

Immersing himself in a surgical career on his return, he spent the next eight years working as a senior registrar before founding the academic surgical unit at Westminster Medical school in 1960, where he practised as a professor of surgery until his retirement in 1989.

Refusing to let go of his dedication to the healthcare system, he took on the position of clinical anatomist at Kings College London in 1993 and still remains in the position today.

In the final chapter of his book, Professor Ellis talks of his impressive career and how his views of the NHS have changed over the last seven decades.

“I have to confess that at the start of NHS, I barely even noticed it, but I later realised it’s importance and the benefits it brought.

“I became very proud that the United Kingdom pioneered this universal health scheme, free at the point of entry and not dependent on the patient’s bank balance, but this soon became an issue.

“But there was no way that anyone in those exciting early days of the NHS could have possibly foreseen that over the years, there would be spiralling costs as medical and surgical care became more sophisticated and expensive.

“As far as I’m concerned, the National Health Service holds a special place in the hearts of the British public as well as in the hearts of all its employees.”

Professor Ellis’ book is already proving to be popular with over 100 copies sold at the launch event.

To purchase a copy, please email orders@afpp.org.uk or call 01423 881300.