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By Duncan Whitehead, with the help of “The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital 1741-2006” by Andrew Knox and Christopher Gardner-Thorpe. From John Hopewell’s collection of Renal Unit histories.

Harry Hall introduced acute haemodialysis to the Exeter area in 1967, then started chronic dialysis in 1969. The dialysis unit was based in the Whipton hospital. Harry Hall was a general physician with many interests including rheumatology, he also started up a rheumatology service in the Royal Devon and Exeter (RD&E). Sadly he died in 2011 after falling from a ladder.

At RD&E, Terry Feest succeeded Tony Daly as a general physician with a renal interest in 1978, and Harry Hall gave up his renal work at that time. There were around 70 patients on dialysis, or transplanted at that time. These expanding numbers meant that a new renal unit was needed, and a new unit was established at the Royal Devon and Exeter (Wonford) site in 1982, overseen by Terry Feest.

Renal transplantation started in Exeter 1969, despite the South-West regional board not being in favour of it. Harry Hall was again the force of change. Cyril Shaldon undertook the first renal transplant in Exeter in 1969, which made it the fourth (fifth or sixth – John Hopewell) centre in the UK to carry out renal transplantation. In 1971 Michael Golby was appointed as a general surgeon, he was a trained transplant surgeon. Between 1972 and 1996 some where in the order of 500 to 600 renal transplants were performed, with good graft survival for the period. In 1997 Justin Morgan moved to Southmead (Bristol), and transplantation at  RD&E ceased. However this was a fairly colourful chapter of the Exeter renal unit’s history. 

The RD & E started elective ventilation for transplant donors in 1988, before cardiac death or certification of brain death. This raised a huge amount of debate and ended up being discussed in the House of Lords. Eventually it was decided it should be illegal and this approach to transplantation was stopped. This reduced the number of donors and the program was closed in 1996.

Satellite Haemodialysis units were required due to the large geographical spread of the renal patients served by the RD & E (A significant area of Devon and Somerset). The first of these was a Portakabin building opened in North Devon in 1985, one of the earliest satellite dialysis units in the UK. Anthony Nicholls further developed this model, opening clinics in Taunton and Torbay in 1987 and 1988. Terry Feest moved to Southmead (Bristol) in 1991.

Edited for clarity June 2023, ANT


Last Updated on June 26, 2023 by neilturn