Robert Fletcher Deane Obituary

Fletcher Deane, who has died aged 80, was one of Scotland’s leading urological surgeons. He was widely respected, nationally and internationally, oversaw the introduction of the changes in urological training following the Calman Report and from 1998 – 2000 was President of the British Association of Urological Surgeons. During a varied life, he set up the national urology service in Oman. He was also an accomplished golf player with an enviably low handicap.

Fletcher was born in Glasgow on 25th March 1938. Educated at Hillhead High School, he went on to study medicine at Glasgow University, the first member of his family to go to University, graduating in 1962. He was also awarded an MSc and lectured in physiology at Glasgow University. He was a Fellow of both the Scottish Royal Colleges of Glasgow and Edinburgh and became the youngest consultant urologist in the country when he was appointed, as he liked to tell people, as "a plumber", at the youthful age of 31 years.

He married Sylvia in 1963, who supported him totally throughout his career and together they raised 3 sons, all of whom became lawyers.

As a consultant he worked in new department at the Western Infirmary under the leadership of Andrew Graham, with whom he had a close and friendly relationship. It was among the first departments in the country to be able to offer a "one stop" diagnostic service for common urological conditions, a process which even today is still in its infancy in many centers.

As a colleague Fletcher was a delight to work with. He was diligent in educating trainees who held him in both respect and affection. He went out of his way to help the career progress of others, be they trainees or colleagues and there must be many whose success and current positions are largely due to him. He was always genuinely pleased at the success of others.

He would always have considered himself a general urologist taking on the treatment of a wide range of conditions. However, when it was in the interest of his patients he was always ready to seek the advice of others with special expertise. He was also for many years the Senior Advisory Surgeon for the Glasgow Family Planning Centre.

"Urology Illustrated" written with Roy Scott and Robin Callender, first published in 1975 and then in paperback in 1982 remained very popular with both surgical trainees and nursing staff for many years.

In the 1970s he paid regular visits to Oman and was instrumental in establishing their Urology Service, bringing several their trainees to work in Glasgow. More recently, when on holiday in Dubai, he was recognised by an Omani surgeon who insisted on taking him to Oman to see their new hospital.

His was deeply committed to surgical training, both within his department, locally when Chairman of the West of Scotland training committee and nationally.

During the later decades of the 20th century, immense changes took place in the training of surgeons. It would not be an exaggeration to say that as far as urology was concerned he was at their very heart. As surgery had become more specialised it was recognised that the traditional FRCS examination taken within a few years of qualification from medical school was no longer in itself enough to assess trainees’ abilities. Fletcher played a critical role in the discussions between the four surgical colleges in Great Britain and Ireland in establishing the speciality examination in urology, which is taken before becoming eligible for a consultant position. The examination was overseen by the Intercollegiate Board in Urology, of which he was Secretary for many years. In addition he was our College representative on the Specialty Advisory Board in Urology for several years from 1896 and was an experience College examiner in both the Primary and final Fellowship examinations.

In 1993 the Chief Medical Officer, Kenneth Calman issued a report radically changing the pattern of medical and surgical specialist training. Fletcher as Chairman of the national training committee for urology, steered the speciality through these changes with his usual tact and efficiency.

By now, he his abilities and personality had been widely recognised and in !998 he was elected President of the British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS), one of the highest honours available to him. In this role he was able to consolidate his earlier work and it would be fair to say that he had an immense influence of the development of urology at the turn of the century. In 2000 he was honoured by the American Urology Association for his contributions.

While many would have used these national commitments to excuse them from mundane surgical work, Fletcher continued to work diligently in the West Glasgow department. In the 1990s, along with most training programmes, a weekly session of lectures was set up for the West of Scotland trainees. That this took place on Friday afternoon could have created a problem as this was when he had his weekly day case operation list. Not so for him. The memory of the President of BAUS beavering away in the day case theatre without any support from junior staff perhaps more than anything speaks of his attitude to training and the wellbeing of those for whom he was responsible.

His other great passion after urological surgery was his considerable skill at golf, playing off a low single figures handicap. He only stopping 2 years before his death and helping the Glasgow Royal College beat the Edinburgh College in 2014. In Montreal, in the early 1990s, he was denied access to the Royal Montreal Golf Club until the professional overhearing where he played, said a member of the Royal and Ancient was more than welcome, played a round of golf with Fletcher and bought him lunch afterwards to apologise.

Despite his obvious frailty towards the end of his life, he remained his usual cheerful self, interested as much in everyone else and their life as with his own, clearly immense, problems and still interested in the world of Urology and BAUS, to which he had contributed so much. He died of the long-term complications of diverticular disease and ureteric obstruction on 23rd July 2018 in the St Andrews Community Hospital. He is survived by Sylvia, his wife, his 3 sons, David, Gordon and Campbell and his 8 grandchildren.

Robert Fletcher Deane
Born March 1938
Died July 2018

Authored by David Kirk FRCS.




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