Dr Dan Tunstall Pedoe, Cardiologist

Hackney Hospital
Interviewed by Natasha Lewer

Dan Tunstall Pedoe was born in 1939 and went to Dulwich College School, in South London, going on to study medicine at Cambridge University and St Bartholomew's Hospital. He did a postgraduate doctorate at Oxford University, followed by a year in California, before joining Hackney Hospital in July 1973 as a cardiologist and general physician. It was a joint appointment between Hackney Hospital and Barts, but he spent the majority of his time at Hackney, as the need there was so much greater.

He began with one staff member – an ECG technician. But he soon built up a thriving cardiology department where he carried out groundbreaking research into using Doppler techniques to measure blood velocity. He was very involved in setting up the new Homerton University Hospital - eventually becoming Chair of the Commissioning Team – an achievement of which he is particularly proud. Always a keen runner, Dan also put a lot of energy into his involvement in sports medicine, setting up the London Sports Medicine Institute and becoming Medical Director of the London Marathon for 27 years.

Dan still lives within walking distance of the old Hackney Hospital. Since retiring from medicine he has returned to his youthful love of photography, and his photographs of the natural world have been widely exhibited.

What made Hackney Hospital so interesting

Dan talks about the challenges that were specific to Hackney Hospital - a local hospital in a deprived area of London - and how its patients differed from those he had come across before.

Building up the cardiology department

When Dan arrived at the Hackney Hospital, he found one ECG technician and an ancient ECG machine. He converted an old laundry building into the new cardiology department, and set about building it up from scratch. Its location next to the chapel proved an unexpected hazard when a psychiatric patient set the chapel on fire and burnt herself to death on a pyre of prayer books.

The link with Barts

Hackney Hospital and St Bartholomews (known as Barts) became linked, but the relationship was often a difficult one. Here Dan describes how managers from Barts insisted he raise the money to care for his patients by doing drug studies for commercial pharmaceutical companies.

Technological change

Technological developments - some of which Dan himself was responsible for - meant that the equipment in the cardiology department was constantly changing. Here he talks about the different techniques and instruments that he used.

Blood velocity research

While at Hackney Hospital, Dan carried out research into measuring blood velocity using Doppler ultrasound techniques, enabling the non-invasive diagnosis of certain heart conditions. The equipment he designed is now a standard part of an echocardiogram.

Closing down the Mothers' Hospital

Dan visited the Mothers' Hospital regularly in response to medical emergencies. He was very critical of the maternity hospital, believing its facilities were inadequate and its standards of medical care were poor, while some of its staff were known to be incompetent. Dan gave evidence at the Knutsford Inquiry, set up in response to a number of maternal deaths at the Mothers'. Here he explains why he thought it was high time the hospital was closed down.

Public criticism

There was dissatisfaction amongst some staff about poor conditions at Hackney Hospital, which went public when journalist John Pilger published an article attacking the hospital's management. Here Dan considers whether the criticisms were justified.

Working in adversity

Although Hackney Hospital was generally a hierachical place, the atmosphere in the cardiology department was informal and friendly. As Dan explains here, he felt that people were prepared to help each other at Hackney Hospital - more than elsewhere - because they were all "working in adversity".

Old bricks new bricks

Many people admired the Victorian buildings of the old Hackney Hospital, and felt that the new Homerton Hospital could never be as good. Dan, however, did not agree. Here he compares the architecture of the two hospitals.

Opponents of the Homerton

There was a lot of local opposition to the new Homerton Hospital. Dan describes dirty tactics that were used by some of the militant opponents of the scheme, which included abusive letters, threats of violence, and burglary.

A new start at the Homerton

Homerton Hospital got off to a disastrous start with a massive MRSA epidemic. But it soon began to do very well. Dan describes how he insisted that the Homerton Hospital get its own pathology labs and teaching rooms if it were to be a success.

Modern art

Dan chaired the Homerton Hospital's art committee, which was set up to fill its empty walls. It was so successful that the hospital gained a reputation as the place to see modern art.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Dr Dan Tunstall Pedoe, Cardiologist' page
This page was added by Natasha Lewer on 24/03/2010.

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