NHS doctor remembered as family man

JPCT 160914 S14398888x Dr Hugh Penman meets Queen in Saudi Arabia. Copy of family photo.  -copy photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140916-101639001
JPCT 160914 S14398888x Dr Hugh Penman meets Queen in Saudi Arabia. Copy of family photo. -copy photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140916-101639001

A Slinfold man who devoted himself to the National Health Service and his family has died aged 85.

Dr Hugh Penman was a passionate consultant pathologist, who fought in the interest of patients in the constant reorganisation of the NHS in Surrey and Sussex.

JPCT 160914 2007.12.30x Dr Hugh Penman with wife Audrey. Copy of family photo. Wedding anniversary -copy photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140916-100307001

JPCT 160914 2007.12.30x Dr Hugh Penman with wife Audrey. Copy of family photo. Wedding anniversary -copy photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140916-100307001

He leaves his wife Audrey, four sons, David, Andrew, Edward and James, and ten grandchildren.

He was described by his wife and sons this week as scrupulously honest and devoted to his family and work.

Hugh was born in Marylebone, London, on May 29, 1929. He went to boarding school in Sherborne, Dorset and then to university in Cambridge. He did his medical training at St Thomas’s Hospital in London.

He met Audrey in West Africa in 1956 while on National Service working as a doctor for the British Army. They married a year later.

Audrey said: “He was such a gentle, kind man. We were married 56 years and we had one argument - and I lost it.

“That’s the only row we had. We might disagree, but we did not have an argument.”

Hugh’s work took the couple and their children to New Zealand and Saudi Arabia where he met The Queen when she opened a pathology unit.

They settled in Slinfold about 40 years ago and he spent 20 of those working at Crawley Hospital from the early 1970s until his retirement 20 years ago. As a pathologist he carried out post mortems and gave evidence at inquests.

He often brought his passion home with him with the family often finding specimens in the fridge.

Audrey said: “That was a bone of contention. When we got married he said ‘we could do with a fridge’ in the days when they were not standard.

“I wanted a washing machine. I asked ‘why do we want a fridge?’ He said for his specimens. We got both in the end.”

She said he once failed an exam because he couldn’t identify one of the specimens. He told the examiner he had a better one at home.

He is remembered by his sons as a devoted family man.

His son Andrew said: “I’ll remember dad as the kindest, most loving father anyone could wish for. He was devoted to my mother, his children, and later his grandchildren.

“He was also devoted to his work as a doctor and worked tirelessly, often late into the night, for the health service in Sussex and Surrey.”

James said: “He lived for gardening and for his family. That was his life - providing for the family. He was very astute and very careful in all matters in the home.”

He added: “He was a Cambridge man through and through. I live in Oxford and that was always ‘the other place’.”

After retiring Hugh spent much of his time in his garden growing vegetables, but continued his passion for pathology writing numerous medical papers for The Lancet and British Medical Journal (BMJ).

In the past few years, he suffered with dementia but his face would still light up on seeing his grandchildren even though he could not put names to faces.

He died in his sleep on September 10 in Clemsfold House Nursing Home, after contracting pneumonia.

The funeral is tomorrow (September 19) at St Peter’s Church, Slinfold, at 3.30pm followed by afternoon tea at the family home. The family has asked for no flowers, however donations to the Alzheimer’s Society are welcome.