Feature Interview

Seeing red

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39204.639711.94 (Published 10 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:976
  1. David Brindle, public services editor
  1. Guardian, London
  1. david.brindle{at}guardian.co.uk

    Julian Tudor Hart coined the term inverse care law, which says those who most need health care are the least likely to get it. Now aged 80, he tells David Brindle why he's angry at Blair's NHS, former BMJ editor Richard Smith, and research ethicists

    Meeting Julian Tudor Hart is good for the soul. Whatever you make of his unswerving socialist line on health care in general, and the NHS in particular, his capacity at 80 to be just as angry as he surely was at 18 does much to bolster your faith in humanity.

    During the course of a couple of hours' conversation at his home on the Gower peninsula in south Wales, enjoying spectacular views over Oxwich Bay, the former general practitioner and research pioneer professes himself angry or, more usually, very angry on several fronts: Tony Blair—of course; Richard Smith, former editor of the BMJ and now chief executive of United Health Europe—to be expected; but research ethicists? More of this to follow.

    More, too, of Tudor Hart's irrepressible optimism. Although the medical profession, in common with other health workers, may in his view have failed miserably to challenge effectively the slide to a market NHS that set in, he says, with the Griffiths report in 1983, he detects in the new generation of medical students a welcome spirit of revolt. We may even be about to see protests like those in 1968, he suspects.

    But first to the School of Health Sciences at the University of Glamorgan, where Tudor Hart occasionally mentors students and where he spoke last month at the unveiling of a bust of his hero, Nye Bevan. For him, he said, “the principle of a free service, developing as a gift economy rather than as trade for profit, was central—so much so, that …

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