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Anthony David Barnes

Former consultant surgeon Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (b 1932; q Birmingham 1958; MB ChB FRCS ChM) died XX April 2016 of a primary malignant brain tumour.


Tony Barnes was in the vanguard of renal transplantation in the UK and made major contributions to the establishment of the specialty.  As a teenager during WW2 he was evacuated to the East Grinstead area, where burnt airmen were benefitting from pioneering plastic surgery.  This influenced his choice of the genetics of skin allograft rejection for a BSc project during his medical undergraduate training in Birmingham. 



After graduating he studied allograft rejection at East Grinstead with Sir Peter Medawar, encouraged by Sir Solly Zuckerman, Professor of Anatomy in Birmingham.  Both encouraged a scientific career but Tony was committed to surgical training and progressed rapidly to a lectureship in the Department of Surgery at Birmingham under Pon d’Abreu.  Renal transplantation had not yet reached the Midlands though a dialysis programme was established. After visits to Boston and later Cambridge and St Mary’s, Tony resolved to introduce a transplantation programme to Birmingham.  In 1967 whilst still a lecturer, having identified a potential first recipient, he was called to a recently deceased donor at a local hospital and duly returned to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with 2 kidneys.  With Professor d’Abreu away, he had to persuade his consultant seniors to proceed with the transplant.  Ultimately this was a team effort with Geoffrey Slaney performing the arterial anastomosis, Frank Ashton the venous and Paul Dawson-Edwards the ureteric, leaving Tony to sew up the skin. 


A substantive consultant appointment soon followed and Tony rapidly built up one of the most active renal programmes in the UK. Like many of his contemporaries in the newly established transplant units he was single- handed for the first 14 years and relied on his trainee registrar to share the busy workload, on a full-time on–call basis regarded by all as character-building rather than unsafe.  Tony often stated that working for him on the “kidney unit” was the ideal contraceptive. Developments in tissue typing showed that recipient-matched kidneys were less prone to rejection and from 1972 Tony chaired the first national matching and sharing scheme, the National Organ Matching and Distribution Service, that later merged with the National Tissue Typing Reference Laboratory to become the UK Transplant Service.  In conjunction with the local newspapers he was instrumental in establishing the first donor card programme in the UK as well as contributing to the acceptance of brain death criteria. 


In addition to renal transplantation, Tony was accomplished in all aspects of general surgery.  His surgical skills were legendary.  On one occasion when evening social events for consultants still took place in the NHS he was called to repair a ruptured aortic aneurysm.  He left during the dinner main course but was back in time for the cheese course, the aneurysm safely repaired.   His experience in the renal failure population helped him establish the principles of parathyroid surgery and served as President of the British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeon from 1995 to 1997. 


Whilst Postgraduate Tutor he led the appeal for funding of a purpose-built Postgraduate Centre for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital that was rapidly built and commissioned.  He supported the transplant sports movement and managed the British team to success at the first International Transplant Games in 1980.

Few accolades followed, though his nomination as Midlander of the Year in 1980 was well-received.  


He retired to his beloved cottages in Pembrokeshire, where with Pat’s help he became a “plantsman”, establishing a six-acre arboretum, which included the second National Collection of Ilex (holly) in the UK.   Other lifetime interests included fishing and opera.  After the nature of his final illness was known, he died peacefully at home with family around him.  He is survived by his wife Pat and three children Simon, Louise and Joanna.

John Buckels (M 1972) and Malcolm Simms

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