This site is intended for health professionals only

A true champion for ‘JAM’ practices

Pulse recently gave Professor Graham Watt it’s first ever Lifetime Achievement Award. Here is the text of my speech introducing Professor Watt and explaining why he is such a worthy winner.

I hate public speaking, I much prefer reading my thoughts on a page.

But when I was asked to present this lifetime achievement award on behalf of Pulse I was more than enthusiastic.

Why? Because I could not think of a more worthy recipient.

We have a new Prime Minister intent on helping the Just About Managing. The JAMs. But what about the JAM GP practices across the country? Those struggling to provide the care they know their patients deserve?

I am sure that you have heard of the legendary GP Dr Julian Tudor Hart. He was the first to routinely measure blood pressure in his practice and reduced premature mortality in high-risk patients by 30%.

He also coined the ‘inverse care law’: the rule that those most in need of healthcare are the least likely to have good access to it. The recipient of this award was a research registrar with Dr Tudor-Hart in the late 1970s.

Dr Tudor-Hart is now nearly 90 and I spoke with him recently. He remembers an earnest man in his early 20s obsessed with making research that mattered and his girlfriend (who I am now reliably informed is now his wife).

He told me – with more than a hint of pride in his voice – that this was a man that ‘doggedly pursued a project and does not let anything stop him’. And he didn’t.

After returning to his native Scotland, this man was the driving force in setting up the Deep End GPs group. This ground-breaking group comprises the 100 general practices serving the most socio-economically deprived populations in Scotland.

Their logo is the deep end of swimming pool. It is very apt. Because they truly are JAM practices; they are fighting for oxygen every day. One of his colleagues put it to me: ‘Take any problem you can think of, multiply it by three, then, divide the number of GPs by three, and that’s the Deep End.’

But as with so many things in life, we are stronger when we band together. And that is the philosophy of the Deep End GPs. They share ideas, expertise and their experiences. Through the University of Glasgow – where this person is a professor – they participate in published research that shows both the extraordinary challenges they face and how giving practices more time with patients can improve care dramatically.

They have shaped the narrative in Scotland and across the UK in terms of what can be done in deprived areas to reverse the inverse care law. What used to be a niche topic, is now openly discussed in national newspapers in Scotland.

This time last year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon specifically cited their work and promised to look at the way those practices are funded. Extraordinary work.

And other Deep End projects have started. There is one in Yorkshire, Ireland and another starting in Australia and perhaps even North America.

It shows just how powerful GP practices can be when they band together and decide to speak with one voice. How even small amounts of additional investment in general practice can reap huge benefits for patients. How when all of you inside this room and those outside – in the words of Dr Tudor-Hart – doggedly pursue a project and do not let anything stop you.

We have seen a lot of examples of this tonight. This person did that – and has shown what can be done.

BUT – we all know the difference between politician’s words and their actions. Not a penny of additional funding has been allocated in Scotland to address the problems that he has highlighted – yet.

And that is why we are giving this award now. We hope that this will put pressure on policy makers in Scotland and across the rest of the UK to look at how they fund general practices not just at the ‘deep end’ but those across the spectrum that are ‘just about managing. That they need to match their fine rhetoric with cold hard cash.

We award this to a GP who has brought imagination, verve and academic rigour to the struggle for JAM practices across the country. Giving large amounts of his personal time, energy and compassion to a project that – I think – has the potential to change the world.

We salute him, his work and the practices he works with tonight.

Please your hands together for Professor Graham Watt, the recipient of the Pulse’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Nigel Praities is editor of Pulse