Dr Trevor Mann

Rockinghorse was set up in 1967 by Dr Trevor Mann as an appeal to provide the first neonatal incubator outside of London.

The appeal not only marked the beginning of our charity, but also the very early days of what later became the Trevor Mann Baby Unit. Trevor was intrinsic to paediatric care in Sussex as we know it today. Here is his story…

Trevor Philip Mann

The early years

Born in 1916, Trevor Mann was one of two children brought up in London between the wars. As a teenager he spent several months as a patient in hospital which gave him insight into the needs of children and families in a hospital environment. He decided to study medicine and was trained at St Mary’s Hospital in London, qualifying in 1941 during the war.

A house physician post in Hammersmith followed before he became surgeon Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve for the next five years. During the latter part of the war he met Joyce (Joy) Ladbrook who was in the WRENS (Women of the Royal Naval Services) working as a radio mechanic. They married in 1946.

Following demobilization he returned to Hammersmith as house physician to the children’s department, later becoming the Streptomycin Registrar employed by the Medical Research Council. Streptomycin were the first antibiotics in the world for treating tuberculosis and were solely available for children with TB meningitis, which had been universally fatal until that time.

Trevor was then appointed as paediatric registrar at Great Ormond Street Hospital after which he became first assistant to Professor Sir Alan Moncrieff. Much of his time was spent in the newly established premature baby unit at Hammersmith.

Paediatrics in Brighton

In 1951 in the early days of the NHS, Trevor was appointed as the first consultant paediatrician to the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children in Brighton (the Royal Alex). The job was full time and busy, however the health authority only had enough money to finance a part-time salary for a year or two.

Trevor’s main work base was the Royal Alex where there were wards and out-patient clinics. In the early days, he did a Saturday morning clinic at Great Ormond Street in London when he was not on call, and would catch the 8am Brighton Belle to Victoria station.

Additionally there were weekly afternoon clinics at Cuckfield Hospital in Mid Sussex and three monthly visits to Chailey Heritage near Lewes, where there were long stay children. At first many were children recovering from TB or polio infections but later more with epilepsy or complex neuro-disability. After a few years, Trevor handed over to specialist neurologists from Guy’s hospital.

Another quarterly visit was to Anna Freud (daughter of Sigmund Freud), who lived in Hampstead and met a small group of paediatricians to discuss anonymous patients with complex psycho-somatic symptoms. This continued for a decade or so.

Soon after his appointment in 1951 Trevor was dealing with a polio outbreak with many children who were seriously ill. TB was still common but at least antibiotics were available for treatment. Meningitis could be treated with chloramphenicol which was now manufactured in large quantities. Infantile gastroenteritis was rife at this time and there was a significant risk of cross infection to other infants and young children admitted to hospital with other illnesses.

Following local research, he re-designed one of the wards at the Royal Alex with cubicles, plus barrier nursing methods and hand washing were introduced. This was not very popular at the beginning as it made more work for nursing staff, but the number of deaths in Brighton from gastroenteritis quickly dropped from more than a dozen a year to only one or two.

Trevor’s article on the subject was published in world-renowned medical journal, the Lancet, in 1954 and led to national changes to the way infectious diseases were managed in hospital. Because of his expertise, Trevor served on the Medical Research Council’s committee on control of cross- infection.

Another major area of interest to Trevor was the emotional needs of children in hospital. Parental visiting of children in hospital was very restricted in the 1950s and they were often actively discouraged from visiting too often. Dermod McCarthy, a paediatrician in Aylesbury, felt strongly on this matter and he demonstrated the benefits of open visiting by parents. Trevor instigated this policy in Brighton soon afterwards with great success.

The next area of paediatrics which needed upgrading at the Royal Alex was the training of junior doctors. The number of senior house officer and registrar posts was expanded and Trevor set up a registrar post which rotated with Guy’s hospital in London. In time this became one of the most popular sought after training posts in the country. Over the next 30 years, many Brighton registrars became well-known paediatricians and all seem to have fond memories of their year or two at the Royal Alex.

Trevor could be demanding and difficult to work with on occasions, but most registrars realised that high standards in all areas of care were expected, however their boss also had similar standards for his own work.

He arranged many specialist clinics at the Royal Alex, with visiting consultants either from local hospitals or visiting specialists from London teaching hospitals e.g. neurology, cardiology or neurology. He had a knack of organising things efficiently so experts enjoyed their regular Brighton visits and the quality of services was upgraded.

Some general and newborn surgery still needed to go to London and Trevor managed to negotiate for the development of a paediatric surgical team. There was no paediatric surgery service in Sussex which meant transfer to teaching hospitals in London or Southampton, that often had no beds available. An excellent paediatric surgery team became established in the late 1970s which enhanced the local comprehensive services for children.

Ventilators improved and the care of premature babies advanced with good outcomes in babies over 32 week’s gestation. Previously many would have died without respiratory support. A specialist neonatal unit was required and this was developed at the Royal Sussex County Hospital site at the top of the tower block in conjunction with maternity services.

The unit thrived and had good equipment and excellent nurses. Eventually the unit was renamed the “Trevor Mann Baby Unit” to mark his role in its conception and input into day to day care of sick newborns during the latter part of his career in Brighton (pictured above).

Outside of medicine

Trevor and his wife Joy moved to Rottingdean at the start of his Brighton post, and at that time they had two young children – Michael and Nicholas; in the next few years Philip and Rosamond were born. The family thrived in Rottingdean and later moved house to the centre of the village opposite the pond. They were well known in the village and good hosts who were welcoming to guests.

Trevor was a trustee of The Rottingdean Preservation Society for many years and occasionally dropped in to The Plough on the way home in the evening for a pint with friends. He was a supporter of Rottingdean Cricket Club which was 10 minutes’ walk from home.

Dinghy sailing became another passion in the 1960s and Trevor joined the Sussex Yacht Club. The boat was kept at Shoreham and he sailed with the children at weekends. Once the children had grown up and his dingy crew disappeared Trevor became a member of the Sail Training Association and sometimes crewed on the schooner Sir Winston Churchill on week long channel trips.

Some years later, he and Joy would love to travel together so they went on ship cruises. When heading towards retirement, Trevor would usually have a free passage by working as deputy ship’s doctor on the Uganda or Nevasa British India Line ships. This involved working about half the week on board and in this way they travelled to The Baltic, Mediterranean and West Indies.

Trevor and Joy enjoyed listening to music either on radio 3 or at local concerts in Brighton. In the early 1960s they developed an interest in opera so became members of Glyndebourne near Lewes.

The children grew up and went on to pursue their own career paths. Mike became an economist in London, Nick a paediatrician in Reading, Phil a production manager in Leicester and Ros a catering trainer in London then a teaching assistant in Epsom.

A retirement present from colleagues in 1981 was a wood turning lathe which was kept in a garden outhouse and Trevor became a skilled wood turner by going on regular teaching courses. He continued with occasional yacht excursions from Brighton marina and also enjoyed country walking.

Unfortunately Trevor’s last few years were plagued by serious ill health and poor vision but he almost reached 80 years and died 24 September 1996.

Many thanks to Trevor’s son, Nick Mann for sharing his story.