Sir Anthony Alment

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 13 April 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:920

Obstetrician who persuaded doctors to take note of feminist dissatisfaction with health care

Tony Alment perhaps did more than any other male doctor of his generation in furthering the cause of women's rights. As honorary secretary of the Royal College of Obstetricians from 1969, he recognised the increasing sense of dissatisfaction that the growing feminist movement was expressing about his specialty. He encouraged his colleagues to take this dissatisfaction seriously. He also supported the cause of women in medicine and encouraged part time training posts for women doctors.

Tony wrought change on a national scale while working in a district general hospital providing care for a community. Appointed to Northampton and Kettering General Hospitals in 1960, he introduced new standards of consultation and discussion to his outpatients, believing that a consultation was a discussion with the patient and so her views and thoughts were paramount. Inevitably this slowed clinics, but Tony was adamant in explaining to managers that this meant there was a need for more resources and not for him to cut standards. He worked hard to establish a system whereby women had a firm date for their operations and so could plan for the care of their children.

Opportunities to develop his ideas came when he joined Oxford Regional Health Authority in 1969. He served there until 1976, chairing the medical advisory committee for three years. When in 1969 he became honorary secretary of the royal college, he developed his belief that obstetricians should cooperate with managers, but managers should recognise and correct resource constraints. He was president of the college from 1978 to 1981, during its jubilee, and was for many years its wine buyer; he left a well filled cellar whose memory lives on.

Embedded Image

In 1940 he went up to St Bartholomew's, which had been evacuated to Cambridge. Enterprising as always, he supplemented his allowance by delivering coal and running a canteen at nearby airfields. By 1944 he was, as a senior student, working for many hours without sleep at Barts during the V1 and V2 bombardment. On qualifying and national service in the Royal Air Force, he undertook postgraduate training and from 1955 he was the resident physician accoucher at Barts, being the last to hold that office. During this time he continued his research into continuous fetal monitoring, building his own equipment for phoncardiography.

In 1976 he chaired the Inquiry into Competence to Practice—which discussed education and responsibilities of individual doctors to their patients, to the community at large and to the management of the health services—and published the Alment report. The sagacity and vision of this was lost on the critics. If the medical profession had embraced Tony's ideas back then, various scandals might have been averted. He served as a member of the Maternity Services Advisory Committee and the CASPE (clinical accountability, service planning, and evaluation) research project into clinical budgeting.

Believing that current experience was vital to offering advice, he deliberately made no further contribution to medical thought after retiring at the age of 63.

An expert fly fisherman, he also worked in his engineering workshop repairing farm machinery for friends. He wrote about wine and studied church architecture, making a particular study of 11th century church fonts. He took up bell ringing in his seventies.

He leaves a wife, Elizabeth.

Sir Edward Anthony John Alment, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Northampton General Hospital 1960-85; b Watford 1922; q Barts 1945; FRCOG, FRCP Ed, FRCGP; d 6 March 2002.

Robin Sheppard

View Abstract

Sign in

Log in through your institution