All posts by Stan Hirst

Life In A Dead End Job — Andy Parsons — 22nd September 2014.

Andy gave us an account of how he star­ted his med­ical career.

This began at the age of 17 when, through family con­nec­tions, he was able to attend phle­bot­omy ses­sions at Pinderfields and Chesterfield hos­pit­als.  He sub­sequently star­ted a med­ical course at Sheffield University whilst still only 17.  He then spent time relat­ing his exper­i­ences as a med­ical stu­dent, which included an elect­ive year in Kenya at a Nairobi Mission Hospital.  Here he came across cases of mal­aria, pel­lagra, tetanus and marasmus. During his free time he climbed 16,400 feet on Mount Kenya and also vis­ited the Masai Mara game reserve.

Returning home he took his final exam­in­a­tions and qual­i­fied in 1974 as MB.ChB. sub­sequently he registered with the GMC in 1975. During his junior doctor days he did place­ments at Sheffield Royal Infirmary, Sheffield Royal Hospital, Thornbury and Chesterfield cas­u­alty depart­ment.

He then decided to have a career in patho­logy, spe­cial­ising in his­to­path­o­logy.  He gained his MRC.Path. in 1982 and in 1984 he became senior lec­turer and con­sult­ant in his­to­path­o­logy. After relat­ing his path­way to becom­ing a con­sult­ant patho­lo­gist he told us more about patho­lo­gical cases offer­ing fur­ther slides to illus­trate his points.

He car­ried out research into the effect of andro­gens in the devel­op­ment of liver cancer, and then decided that his main interest lay in oph­thal­mic patho­logy and in 1993 he became senior lec­turer and con­sult­ant in oph­thal­mic patho­logy.

He iden­ti­fied, during his work, cases of melan­oma in the eyes (which caused ret­inal detach­ment) and tox­o­plas­mosis where the worm (ori­gin­ated from dog faeces) even­tu­ally found its way into the eye. He became involved in eye trauma cases, non-accidental trauma, mainly in the con­text of child abuse (direct or indir­ect).

Shaken baby head syn­drome causes blood to occur in the eye and 80% of shaken babies have ret­inal haem­or­rhage.  He stated that whilst this could prove that the child had been abused, there was also another pos­sible cause of having blood in the eyes i.e. from a dif­fi­cult child­birth.

Many legal prob­lems could present them­selves so the patho­lo­gist had to be cer­tain of his find­ings.

Thanks to Andy for his inter­est­ing present­a­tion.


Hillsborough Revisited — 1989. — George Clark — 21st July 2014.

In 1989 George Clark was the doctor in charge of intens­ive care at the Northern General. The dis­aster was not the only one to have occurred at Hillsborough – there were two pre­vi­ous incid­ents of crushes and cas­u­al­ties in the 1980’s.

How did it happen?  Could it have been fore­seen?  Why did it happen?  Who was to blame? On the fate­ful day the main object­ive was to keep the fans from Nottingham Forest and Liverpool apart and they used the same arrange­ments as in the pre­vi­ous crush of 1988. The Notts. Fans were alloc­ated the east and south stands and Liverpool fans the north and west stands.  This was to pre­vent the meet­ing of fans before the match.

There was only one train bring­ing Liverpool fans to Sheffield and they also had less tick­ets alloc­ated than the Nottingham fans. There were just 23 turn­stiles  and all fans were fun­nelled into a con­fined area.  There was con­fu­sion with the turn­stile tick­ets – Liverpool fans had 1000 tick­ets per turn­stile.  Once through the turn­stiles there was con­fu­sion due to bad sig­nage.  Areas were des­ig­nated A, C, and B.  Access B was through the tunnel which sloped down into the ground so that most of the fans chose this way in.  On the west ter­races there were radial fences to con­fine the fans into pens and there were also crush bar­ri­ers and small gates into the pens.

Chief Superintendent Duckenfield was in charge and, as in other semi-finals, it was stated that fans would “find their own level.”

Liverpool fans were drink­ing up to 12 noon and, rumour had it, if you arrived late you could push and get in.  By 2.20 p.m. a large number of fans were at Leppings Lane and they all went through the tunnel.  Pens 3 and 4 were very full.  At 2.44 p.m. there was a call for rein­force­ments as the crowd out­side Leppings Lane was estim­ated at 8,000.  A call was made to bypass the turn­stiles and the police author­ised the open­ing of gate C.  The gate was opened at 2.52 p.m. and 2,000 fans passed through into the tunnel.  At 2.54 p.m. teams were on the pitch.  At 3 p.m. the game star­ted and there was a surge and bar­rier 124A col­lapsed. Eventually the police real­ised the dilemma but they were not allowed to let people onto the pitch.  Confusion reigned and a pitch inva­sion com­menced because of people being crushed and injured in the pens.

At 3.06 p.m the game was stopped and at 3.13 p.m.ambulances arrived but were not allowed onto the pitch.  There were not enough stretch­ers so hoard­ings were used to carry cas­u­al­ties to the gym for  treat­ment. Twenty doc­tors were present and at 4.15 p.m. cas­u­al­ties were trans­ferred to hos­pital. Eighty nine males and seven females died.  The major­ity were in pen 3.  The first inquest stated that it was purely acci­dental incid­ent and the cas­u­al­ties died from crush asphyxia.

At the Northern General there were only nine empty ICU beds.  At 3.21 p.m. a major incid­ent plan was put in place.  By 3.50 p.m. the cas­u­alty depart­ment was sat­ur­ated and by 4 p.m. many other staff arrived after seeing the incid­ent on T.V.  The anaes­thet­ist played a major part in the resus­cit­a­tion of patients.  They were anaes­thet­ised and vent­il­ated.  162 patients were admit­ted to the hos­pital.

Why did it occur?

  1.  Lack of mon­it­or­ing of pens
  2. Failure to close pens when full
  3. The “find their own level” policy was flawed.
  4. Culture of crowd con­trol rather than safety aspects
  5. Extra fans enter­ing tunnel
  6. Opening of gate C

Build up fans at Leppings Lane was due to:-

  • (a) small number of turn­stiles,
  •  (b) con­fu­sion with tick­ets,
  • © Liverpool fans arriv­ing late,
  • (d) warm weather and
  • (e) drink­ing in pubs.

The F.A. was not par­tic­u­larly con­cerned with safety in those days.  If ded­ic­ated turn­stiles and account­ing for each pen had been in place things might have been dif­fer­ent.  (The capa­city for pen 3 was 822) and the actual number on the day was 1567).

The Taylor Report included lots of recom­mend­a­tions regard­ing safety at all sports events and the issue of safety cer­ti­fic­ates. The DDP’s decision not to pro­sec­ute any  indi­vidual or any cor­por­ate body was taken in August 1990. The coroner’s report had a cut-off of 3.15p.m. and any­thing after that was not deemed rel­ev­ant.  The police admit­ted that state­ments were changed as recol­lec­tions were dif­fer­ent in the light of day.  C.I. Duckenfield had author­ised the open­ing of gate C.

The Hillsborough Independent Panel was set up as many bereaved fam­il­ies con­sidered that the true con­text, cir­cum­stances of the dis­aster had not been made public.

The Hillsborough Family Support Group pro­ceeded with a private pro­sec­u­tion against C.Supt. Duckenfield and Supt. Murray.  Murray was acquit­ted and the ver­dict against Duckenfield was unde­cided.

Many thanks to George Clark for a very inform­at­ive and inter­est­ing talk on a sub­ject which still festers on.


D-Day Landing — Eric Allsop — 2nd June 2014.

Eric was a young man of eight­een and work­ing at Husband’s in Sheffield when he volun­teered to join up.  He hoped that by doing so, he would be able to choose the unit. He joined the Royal Engineers think­ing that this unit would keep him out of ser­i­ous con­flict.  Each sapper had to have a trade and Eric elec­ted to be a sapper sur­veyor. He under­went intens­ive train­ing at vari­ous sites in England learn­ing how to remove mines.  His role, after train­ing, was to san­it­ise beaches and clear them of mines and explos­ive devices.  His unit spent time prac­tising on the south coast and, when train­ing was com­pleted, they were sta­tioned at Southampton Common wait­ing for the ships to assemble.

Eric’s unit was com­bined with Canadian groups, includ­ing the Winnipeg Rifles and the Chaudiere.  The latter group was renowned for hating the English and other Canadian troops more than the Germans.  Other units along­side Eric’s were the REME and the Pioneer Corps, the latter having the job of body-bagging any sol­dier killed in the first wave so as not to put off the sol­diers fol­low­ing behind in the next wave.

It took eight days to load the ship before depar­ture.  The ship car­ried 1800 assault troops and it took 18 land­ing craft three trips to get all the men ashore.  The first batch were lowered in the land­ing craft from the ship’s davits but sub­sequent land­ing craft were loaded with men who had to scramble down nets to board them.  Many men were killed and injured due to the heavy kit they car­ried.  Seasickness was rife and affected many during the trip to shore in the land­ing craft.  On land­ing the water was knee deep and Eric car­ried a rifle,  large  mine detector and a bat­tery weigh­ing 40 lbs.  His equip­ment was so heavy that he had to dump the bat­tery and pick it up later.

Eric landed on Juno beach.  There was a gap between Juno beach and Gold Beach that nobody had known about.  Peering over one of the sand dunes they saw three Germans who sur­rendered.  Eric’s unit was being shot at from the side so Eric went to find some back up and brought tanks and bull­dozers to fill the gap.  One tank fell into a ditch so they covered it with rubble in order to make a better access road.  Thirty years later the tank was dug up  and is now dis­played on a plinth on the road to Graye sur Mer.

Eric san­it­ised the beach, it took him six weeks.  One thou­sand, seven hun­dred mines were put into a German pill­box which was then blown up!  A mine museum was set up after the war dis­play­ing all the dif­fer­ent types of mines used at the time.

Our thanks go to Eric for the part he played and for ensur­ing a better future for all of us