By Chris Jones
ISBN: 978-1-5272-5228-8; 2019
Paperback; 258 pages
Available as a paperback book direct from Chris Jones (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) or as a Kindle book on amazon.co.uk
Reviewed by Yvonne Allen
[Dr Yvonne Allen was a lecturer in neuroscience at the University of Liverpool and, for many years, was seconded as Executive Secretary to the British Neuroscience Association]
In his preface, Chris Jones asks to be forgiven for any editorial mishaps that might accompany his first attempt at self-publishing; there are indeed typographical and formatting errors here and there, and some of the images deserve to be of better reproduction quality. However, these are minor lapses in an otherwise fascinating, accessible and timely book that documents the life history so far of the Walton Centre, from its inception nearly 70 years ago to the unique and world-renowned establishment that it is today. Careful and well-referenced research is intelligently interjected with interview transcripts from some of the major players in its colourful history, as it braced itself time and again from political interference that saw it become a ‘Trust’ in the early ‘90s, then a ‘Foundation Trust’ 15 years later, and so on. During this time, it also geographically relocated from Walton (Rice Lane) to the Fazakerley (Lower Lane) site which, although disruptive, nevertheless allowed it to flourish and become the largest neuro critical care unit in the UK. ‘Walton’ is to neurology and neurosurgery what ‘Papworth’ is to heart surgery, says Chris Jones, and rightly so.
Throughout the mayhem of these structural changes, not to mention the turmoil of the organ retention and brain samples scandal at the turn of the new century, the Walton Centre was still able to deliver high quality care to the region. It was always willing to embrace new technologies (CT and MRI scanning, ‘coiling’ for aneurysms, Deep Brain Stimulation, for example) and, in doing so, enhanced its research reputation from the doldrums of the early 1970s to the world-class research-driven establishment that it has become. Several names are mentioned – Ian Williams, David Chadwick and Paul May in particular – who were clearly instrumental in steering the Centre through these challenging times. Equally, Sam Lipton, John Miles and David Bowsher are recognised for the foundation of the Pain Research Institute and Pain Relief Foundation (its funding arm) that saw pain management also at the forefront of the Walton Centre’s mission.
Of course, as Chris Jones admits, so many other names deserve praise, from the nursing staff, to physiotherapists, to porters, to estate managers and administrators etc., but there is only enough space in this relatively short book to name but a few. In an uncertain future for the Walton Centre as it enters a new decade and yet more challenges (not just financial), this book is an important contribution to reminding us, not just (in the early chapters) of the eminent neuroscientists associated with Liverpool in the first half of the last century, but how the region has continued to attract and inspire neuroscientists, neurologists and neurosurgeons since then to create a unique establishment that is, indeed, in the words of the author, ‘beyond compare’.