Dr Peter Baskett was one of the world’s leading figures in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and pre-hospital medical care and a past chairman of BASICS as well as long time active member. ‘Col Peter’ served with the Territorial Army commanding 219 Wessex Field Hospital from 1992.
Born in Belfast he graduated from Queens’ University, Belfast, and in 1959 from the University of Cambridge. His initial postgraduate training, including his first post in anaesthesia, was at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Dr Baskett had fond memories of his time in Belfast and enjoyed several opportunities to return there as an invited lecturer.
In 1962 Dr Baskett moved to Bristol to complete his anaesthetic training and was subsequently appointed as a consultant anaesthetist to United Bristol Hospitals and Frenchay Hospital in 1966, a position he held until retirement from clinical practice in 1999. Along with a colleague, Dr John Zorab, Dr Baskett established the intensive care unit at Frenchay Hospital, which opened on May 1, 1967.
In the late 1960s, although Entonox was already used routinely for pain relief during childbirth, Dr Baskett decided to explore the feasibility of its administration by ambulance personnel. This was an important innovation. This step marked the beginning of Dr Baskett’s most important contribution to healthcare: the provision of pre-hospital care by specially trained ambulance personnel beyond the simple first aid measures employed up till then.
His idea brought on-scene pain relief to thousands of patients every year. But this was only the start. He soon reasoned that if ambulance crews could be trained to provide Entonox for pain relief there must be much more that they could learn and do. Thus, having been established in the United States, the concept of the “paramedic” began to flourish in the UK.
In order to facilitate training in Bristol, the Gloucestershire ambulance service agreed to base a specially equipped ambulance at Frenchay Hospital. Dr Baskett visited the manufacturer in Manchester and together they designed a modified ambulance body with facilities for oxygen administration, cardiac monitoring and Entonox. This first vehicle became known as the mobile resuscitation unit and was based in a small, specially built garage adjacent to the emergency department at Frenchay Hospital. His idea was that, when not actually out on a call, the ambulance personnel, having higher training, could work in the emergency department. Furthermore, if an emergency call of sufficient seriousness came in, an emergency physician or an anaesthetist could accompany the crew and provide on-scene training.
Dr Baskett was not alone in the development of pre-hospital care in the UK: Douglas Chamberlain equipped ambulances in Brighton with defibrillators and trained ambulance personnel to use them. Meanwhile, general practitioners, with strong leadership from Dr Kenneth Easton, were founding GP-based schemes, which, in due course, led to the foundation of the British Association for Immediate Care Schemes (BASICS). Dr Baskett was a founder member of this organisation and was later chairman, 1981-85. He was also a founder member of a committee that in 1981 evolved from BASICS, the Community Resuscitation Advisory Committee (CRAC). The constitution of this committee was amended in May 1984 giving rise to the Resuscitation Council (UK), the first resuscitation council in Europe.
Dr Baskett went on to be president or chairman of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, 1990-92, the United Services section of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1997-99, the World Association for Emergency and Disaster Medicine, 1989-93, the International Trauma Anaesthesia and Critical Care Society, 1995-98, the Triservice Society of Anaesthetists, 1994-95, and the Society of Anaesthetists of the South Western Region, 1997-98.
Although he did not become president of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, he spent 12 years on the college council and its equivalent predecessor. In 1989, Dr Baskett became the chairman of the European Resuscitation Council and through this organisation he was responsible for developing resuscitation throughout Europe. He personally introduced a standardised advanced resuscitation training course into more than 20 European countries. This sustained commitment to frontline, “hands-on” teaching was unique for a man of Dr Baskett’s experience and stature and because of this he was admired by healthcare professionals throughout Europe.
Dr Baskett was editor-in-chief of the journal Resuscitation from 1997 until his death. With his brother, Tom, he co-edited a book, Resuscitation Greats, which documented the history of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Dr Baskett was influential in the development of trauma services in the UK. Throughout his career he used his international connections to provide training opportunities for numerous anaesthetic trainee doctors from Bristol and elsewhere in the UK. In particular, he set up a strong alliance with the Shock Trauma Centre in Baltimore, which gave many British anaesthetists, several of whom were military doctors, the opportunity to enhance their skills and knowledge in trauma resuscitation.
Dr Baskett had a long-standing and passionate affair with motor sport, an interest he shared with his brother, Julian. He was chief medical officer to Castle Combe circuit, 1968-1995. He continued to attend motor sport events as a doctor until 2007.