Obituary: Robin Loveday (1940-2021) - past president

Winston Peters looks back on the life of past president Robin Loveday, much-loved consultant anaesthetist, sailor and 'gadget man'

Robin Loveday, former HCSA president, was born on 6th October 1940 in Banstead, Surrey. Both his parents were primary school teachers, his father a headmaster of a local school.

While Robin’s father was in the army during the second world war, he stayed in the Cotswolds and had fond memories of early life, growing up near a family farm in the countryside.

After the war, the family moved back to Surrey, to Sanderstead. He attended secondary school at Whitgift school for boys, South Croydon.

As a young man, he was encouraged to study medicine by a family friend – Stanley (Shorty) Mason, a well-known and much-respected consultant anaesthetist. Robin spent his first year at King’s College London medical school studying botany, as this was considered an essential gap in his education thus far, presenting a fascinating insight into the curriculum requirements at the time.

It was while Robin was studying medicine that he met his wife to be, Antoinette (Anne), who was a student nurse at the same hospital. Robin and Anne married in 1964 and graduated the same year. Robin progressed through his career within the King’s College Hospital Group.

Always the gadget man, anaesthetics was the obvious choice for Robin. He found obstetric anaesthetics particularly interesting and completed his Diploma in Obstetrics of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (DObstRCOG) in 1966.

Consultant role
Robin completed his specialist training and was awarded the Diploma of Fellow in the Faculty of Anaesthetics (FFARCS) in 1967. In 1970 he was successful in his application for a consultant anaesthetist post at Pembury hospital, Tunbridge Wells. He worked at Pembury, Kent and Sussex and Tonbridge Cottage Hospitals and subsequently the Nuffield and Spire Hospitals. His knowledge of epidural analgesia, at that time a relatively new procedure, was highly valued. One of his obstetric colleagues later recalled with gratitude Robin’s enthusiasm for this technique. He remembered how Robin’s support went a long way towards establishing the provision of epidurals to women in labour at Pembury Hospital as early as 1977.

Later, joining the Obstetric Anaesthetic Association, Robin was able to pass on, with the help of his obstetrician colleagues, a further understanding of the modern treatment for pre-eclampsia, and the use of mobile epidural analgesia in labour.

His wife, Anne trained in midwifery and often worked alongside Robin in her role as labour ward sister at Pembury hospital. “Team Loveday” no doubt had a positive influence on the collaborate approach to training among midwifery, obstetric and anaesthetic staff during this time.

Robin also enjoyed orthopaedic anaesthetics, which he continued for several years at the Horder Centre in Crowborough, East Sussex, after retirement from the NHS.

Throughout his career, Robin was respected widely by his colleagues. He was known not just for his skill and competence as an anaesthetist, but for his calm, reassuring presence, for his professionalism and wisdom, and for his kindness to both colleagues and patients alike. He was Chairman of the Anaesthetists at Pembury hospital at one stage and is remembered for having worked untiringly for both the junior anaesthetists and patients.

He joined the HCSA becoming Chair of the Independent Health Subcommittee and serving a double term as President from March 1994 until March 1998. He was a true leader blessed with wisdom. He was always calm with outstanding interpersonal skills that so benefited the Association. Serious, yes, but jolly also - wonderfully kind man and doctor. Although not actively seeking the limelight, this role took him on occasion to the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street and one episode of Robert Kilroy-Silk’s TV eponymous talk show. Having been a member of the Royal Society of Medicine, he enjoyed participating as a member of the RSM Retired Fellows Society, at one stage as secretary.

Family Life and hobbies
Family life for Robin and Anne and their three children was busy and fun. Later there were seven grandchildren. Robin and Anne threw themselves into village life, joining in, and often organising events such as progressive meals, walking group rambles, and hosted many meals for friends and family. They were a well-oiled team with Robin responsible for planning and cooking delicious main meals and Anne always the desert and table decoration queen. Later in life, Robin operated the sound and lighting for the village drama productions.

Robin’s hobbies included sailing, initially on El Tigré, an inappropriately named sailing dinghy that would often be seen strapped to the top of the car on journeys to Rustington, Sussex. He and Anne progressed to skipper larger, more comfortable yachts in the Caribbean with good friends. Family and friends benefited from joining Robin on his many travels, most often to Scotland and a timeshare in Madeira.

Robin’s other skills included word and number puzzles (Countdown/Pointless were TV favourites), inventing and problem solving (famously the rather crackly but effective ‘70s home intercom system), new innovations (first in the family to learn how to text on the phone), photography (holidays were invariably spent carrying a lot of equipment), entertaining young grandchildren and cooking unbeatable shepherd’s pie.

Despite the decline in his mobility in later life, due to Parkinson’s disease and metastatic renal cancer, Robin continued to live life to the full, enjoying regular trips out in the countryside with Anne, his family, and friends. Right up until a few weeks before his death, he kept in touch with the RSM via their many webinars, most recently on all aspects relating to healthcare management during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He died peacefully at home on 26th July 2021, surrounded by his family.