Intended for healthcare professionals


John Richard Robinson: pioneered the concept of therapeutic psychiatric communities

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 12 August 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3168
  1. Roger Jones, emeritus professor of general practice
  1. King’s College London, UK
  1. roger.jones{at}

John Robinson always wanted to be a psychiatrist. Over his almost 30 years at the Littlemore Hospital in Oxford, through the creation and promotion of therapeutic psychiatric communities, he made a national and international contribution to the care of patients with acute psychiatric illness and of older patients with mental health problems and dementia. In his memoir O, To Be a Doctor (Frontier Publishing, 2012) he describes, with characteristic modesty, his rich medical and personal life, and identifies numerous experiences that sensitised him to the need for a more patient centred, enlightened, and collaborative approach to psychiatry.

As a medical student on a paediatric attachment, he experienced Dermot McCarthy’s innovative practice of having a parent to stay with the patient in hospital—“what a wonderful insight into the creative power of emotional attachment.” He describes a ward …

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