Remembering Julian Tudor Hart

WISERD Director Ian Rees Jones pays tribute to Julian Tudor Hart who passed away on 1st July. 

It is a great sadness to hear the news of the death of Julian Tudor Hart.  Born in 1927, he studied medicine at Cambridge University and in London, graduating in 1952.

Julian worked for 30 years as a general practitioner in Glyncorrwg, honing his skills as a primary care epidemiologist and becoming a pioneer of public health research.  His was the first practice in the UK to be recognised as a research practice and his work on the routine measurement of blood pressure in the community transformed thinking on population medicine and prevention.

His work was always embedded in a deep concern for, and a democratic engagement with, the community he served and was an inspiration to generations of practitioners and researchers. In recognition of his astonishing body of work he was awarded the Royal College of General Practitioners international Discovery Prize for research in primary care in 2006. In 1971 he published ‘The Inverse Care Law’, setting out, with great clarity, that: “The availability of good medical care tends to vary inversely with the need for the population served. This inverse care law operates more completely where medical care is most exposed to market forces, and less so where such exposure is reduced.”  This paper was a pivotal moment for research on inequalities in health and is still the key reference point today for work on access to care and health services.

Julian was a life-long socialist and through his writing, public speaking and work with the Socialist Health Association he promoted his progressive vision for the National Health Service.  He set out his arguments in The Political Economy of Health Care: A Clinical Perspective where he argued for a Universal Health System based on cooperation not competition.

He did not view the NHS as something to be revered and preserved, rather he saw in Wales opportunities to improve and democratise the NHS. He was an optimist and a realist and did not shrink from the complexities involved but had a clear understanding of how technological advances harnessed to the needs of the people could make the NHS a key part of our productive economy.

For over ten years the annual Julian Tudor Hart lectures brought together distinguished speakers, practitioners, researchers and the public together to discuss key issues relating to health and health care and Julian was always in attendance providing his own brand of commentary and critique and always in a spirit of camaraderie and intellectual curiosity.  We hope these events can continue in memory of his enormous and varied contributions to research and public life. He will be greatly missed.  Our thoughts are with Mary, and the rest of the family.