Bringing people together: Peter’s story

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Part of 120 years of The King's Fund

The King’s Fund is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year and, as part of our celebrations, we are asking people whose lives have been touched by the Fund to share their stories with us.

For the second story in the series, we talked to Dr Peter Pritchard, a GP who started his medical career as a Casualty Officer at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1942 before serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps and with the legendary Chindits special forces, operating behind enemy lines in Burma.

As his career progressed, Peter chose to specialise in primary care, becoming a GP in the early 1950s. It was in this role that he became involved with The King’s Fund, at a time when the Fund was widening its remit: hosting and supporting a wide range of development projects to improve the quality of health care and opening a specialist health services library in Camden Town.

A different era

Peter recalls his first contact with the Fund, which tells of very different times to those we know today: ‘I was invited to attend a meeting at [the Fund’s] office in the City of London by the director, Mr Peers. After the meeting, a charming gastroenterologist offered me a lift to Paddington. As we left the building, his Rolls Royce slid silently to pick us up. He got out first so I arrived at Paddington as the sole passenger in the Roller; it made me feel very important.’

After that initial meeting, Peter’s involvement with the Fund grew: ‘I attended many of their meetings and made good use of the excellent library… The meetings resulted in many, very useful contacts, such as Avedis Donabedian [the father of quality assurance], Richard Beckhard [a pioneer of organisational development] and Edgar Borgenhammar, Director of the Nordic School of Public Health at Göteborg in Sweden, to which I was invited many times.’

Sharing learning

Bringing people together to learn and share ideas is an important part of the Fund’s heritage. In 1981, the Fund responded to Peter’s suggestion that it convene a workshop on management education in primary care, so that people active in this field could have an opportunity to exchange views and experiences. During the day-long workshop, participants discussed courses for a range of general practice staff, team development in primary health care and resources for management education. A report was published following the meeting, which is available in our digital archive.

Peter was also a part-time workshop leader at the College of Hospital Management, established by the Fund in 1968. He led workshops on the management of general practice and remembers, ‘They were very popular with GP leaders but less so with the Royal College of General Practitioners, whose board (with the exception of Dr John Horder) were committed to the psychoanalytic methods [which focused on an individual’s unconscious mind]… and had no time for open sociotechnical systems [an approach that recognises the interaction between people and technology in workplaces].’

Innovative thinking

For Peter, The King’s Fund was a place of support and ideas: ‘[The Fund] was always very helpful, and quite inspiring really. They had very much the same ideas as me – I was a great innovator and so were they, so we were on the same wavelength.’

Peter’s practice was based at Berinsfield, near Oxford, and was the first to introduce a patient participant group in 1972. In a paper published in the BMJ, Peter outlined the changes that had been introduced as a result of the group – such as a chiropody service with transport for older people and help cards for older patients living alone.

Many of the issues faced by primary care clinicians more than 40 years ago still resonate today, such as access, patient self-care and financial constraints. ‘Our patient participant group attracted the interest of the World Health Organization and The King’s Fund who hosted a meeting on this topic,’ explains Peter. ‘The move towards patient involvement slowly got under way and, in 2016, it became obligatory for practices to have such a group – after a 44-year incubation period.’

Today, the Fund continues to work in primary care and community services, recently publishing major reports on pressures in general practice and quality in district nursing services. And underpinning our research and analysis remains a firm commitment to bring people together to share knowledge, debate and learn, whether that’s through events, learning networks or our Information and Knowledge Services.