Dr Desmond Croft, Pioneer of Nuclear Medicine in the UK, Obituary

The BNMS were saddened to learn of the death of Dr Desmond Croft. Dr Croft was Consultant Physician with an interest in Nuclear Medicine at St Thomas' Hospital until his retirement in 1996.



He first became interested in the subject when a registrar and studied gastric bleeding using radio-labelled red cells. He was appointed Consultant Physician at St Thomas' and was in charge of what was then called the 'isotope lab.' With the building of two new blocks in the 1970's the department moved to new premises and was renamed 'Nuclear Medicine.' He held a joint position as General Physician with a share of the acute on-take rota and Consultant in charge of the Nuclear Medicine Department. It was through his involvement in acute medicine that several of his trainees were 'converted' to Nuclear Medicine. Six of these trainees became consultants in Nuclear Medicine and 3 of these Presidents of the BNMS.

Within St Thomas' he was Chairman of the Consultants Committee. He was also a Trustee fro the Florence Nightingale Museum which is housed on the St Thomas' campus. He represented Nuclear Medicine on multiple Committees including those of the RCP.

As is apparent from the naming of the first department, the speciality of Nuclear Medicine was in its infancy when he began. He was a founder member of the BNMS and was President from 1976-78 having previously been Honorary Secretary. He was also Chairman of the Intercollegiate Committee, President of the European Board of Nuclear Medicine from 1990 – 1993, and in this position he was instrumental in ensuring that Nuclear Medicine was recognised by the European Union of Medical Specialties as a mono-speciality.  This recognition took 10 years and needed the backing initially of Irish practitioners and a Belgium practitioner as well as diplomacy and a great deal of effort over this period to gain recognition of the Specialty.

Under his stewardship, the department pioneered, amongst other things, quantitative lymphatic scanning, Xenon lung ventilation scans, Parathyroid imaging, and DTPA aerosol lung studies publishing over 80 papers in the field. Perhaps the most important clinical methodology he helped introduce was PET scanning. The first Clinical PET Centre in the UK was opened in 1991 at St Thomas’ Hospital and Guy’s Hospital and has developed into one of the leading Centres.

Desmond was a very popular doctor and was well respected by both those he worked with and by his patients. He was a keen swimmer and whenever he went to meetings abroad his hotel either had to have or be near a swimming pool.  He was always approachable, had a good sense of humour and hubris – essential for any clinician.  Above all he was very supportive of colleagues and junior doctors and extremely caring of his patients.

Written by Professor Mike O’Doherty and Dr Tom Nunan,  24 September 2012.