Plastic Surgery & Maxillofacial Surgery at Queen Mary’s
In this appendix
Limb Fitting / Plastic Surgery and
Maxillofacial Surgery / Roehampton House / The Douglas Bader Centre / The Trustees Today
Gillies, Rooksdown House and plastic surgery
Medical services were not prepared for the large number of gross facial injuries which occurred during the First World War, and the arrival of 2,000 such cases after the Battle of the Somme put severe pressure on the few services available. In 1917 the Queen’s Hospital, Sidcup became the first hospital devoted entirely to plastic surgery. Sir Harold Gillies and a team of plastic surgeons from Britain, the Commonwealth and America worked there to establish many of the principles which now guide modern plastic surgery. In 1923 Queen’s Hospital was closed and the service transferred to Roehampton, although Gillies did not approve of this move.
Sir Harold Gillies was an advisor to the Government on the needs for plastic surgery units at the beginning of the Second World War. Rooksdown House, previously a private annexe to Park Prewett Mental Hospital, was one of the units opened at this time, providing 160 beds. Building on lessons learnt in the First World War thousands of members of the armed forces and civilians injured by bombing were treated at Rooksdown House. Gillies placed great emphasis on training surgeons and insisted on the importance of good photographic and diagramatic records. He also cooperated closely with oral surgeons in the treatment of jaw injuries.
After the Second World War Rooksdown House was fully occupied for some time by those patients requiring long-term care and returning for follow-up surgery. Gradually more of the patients were civilians and in 1948 Rooksdown House became part of the NHS and was designated the Regional Plastic Surgery Centre for the South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.
Over 1,600 operations were performed at Rooksdown House every year and the large waiting list was growing. In addition there were 400 emergency admissions each year. This created pressure to move the Centre as Rooksdown House did not have sufficient modern facilities and extensive rebuilding would have been required. Also, it was badly positioned in the Region for access and Park Prewett Hospital wanted to expand its mental patient facilities. Finally in 1954, after considering various options, it was decided Roehampton would be the most suitable site for the move. This was partly due to the fact that the plastic surgery department from Sidcup had transferred there in 1923. However, it was 1959 before the Regional Plastic Surgery Centre could finally move to Roehampton as a great deal of planning and rebuilding was required.
In 1954 Roehampton had two consultant plastic surgeons while Rooksdown House had three consultant plastic surgeons, three consultant oral surgeons and two consultant anaesthetists plus registrars and house surgeons. Sir Harold Gillies was Emeritus Consultant and agreed to visit Roehampton in an advisory capacity. The Plastic Surgery Centre took over wards F to M and the underground theatre continued as the main plastic surgery theatre. Ward G was rebuilt as a Burns Unit with 23 beds and an adjoining room for patients in shock, a Burns Treatment Area was also built with a theatre for skin grafting operations and special dressing room with saline bath equipment. New library and lecture theatre facilities were built near ward F. The Oral Surgery Unit was located in a wooden building next to Pathology which had been enlarged to cope with the additional demands of the new units. Accomodation was also found for a clinical artist and an enlarged photographic department. The new unit opened on 1st April 1959, although emergencies had been accepted a month earlier. Three months later the delegates to the Second Congress of the International Society of Plastic Surgeons, which was being held in London, were invited to visit Roehampton as a centre of international importance.
Towards a district general hospital
With the retirement of Sir Harold Gillies the directorship of the Plastic Surgery Centre passed to Mr Patrick Clarkson and later to Mr Richard Battle. Norman Rowe, the leading figure in the field of maxillofacial surgery continued his directorship of the speciality at the new centre formed at Queen Mary’s. The Burns Unit was under the management of Mr A.G. Evans who did much to advance the treatment of burns patients at that time.
Queen Mary’s was in fact still in the late 1950s and early 1960s under the aegis of the Ministries of Pensions and Health. The opening of the Plastic, Burns and Maxillofacial Units marked the beginning of a change from the care of war pensioners to involvement and provision of a district general hospital.
Over the years since then the departments have continued to grow and develop. In 1976 the Plastic Surgery and Burns Unit was confirmed as a Regional Speciality and in 1987 Princess Alexandra opened a new Burns Unit. 1996 saw 2 new developments with the openings of the Hand Management Unit and the Stephen Kirby Skin Bank.
The Maxillofacial Surgery Unit today provides specialised treatment for facial injury patients and is very involved in the management of head and neck cancer cases. The Unit offers specialised management facilities for patients with oral facial deformities including cleft palate treatment. The Maxillofacial Prosthetic Laboratory Service also offers all aspects of advanced prosthetic reconstruction and rehabilitation. To mark the special contribution made by the late Norman Rowe the unit at Queen Mary’s was named the Norman Rowe Unit.