Is primary care research a lost cause?

Date of this Version


Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Published Version.

Del Mar, C. (2009). Is primary care research a lost cause? (Invited Editorial). BMJ, 339, b4810.

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© Copyright Chris Del Mar, 2009



Six years ago Richard Horton asked the provocative question, "is primary care research a lost cause?"¹ The result was an initial mixture of dismay and an indignant sense of betrayal among primary care researchers, then some deeper reflection. General practice research was once great, as shown by a report from the Academy of Medical Sciences,² which is based on a conference held last year.³ Exemplary general practitioner researchers include Sir James McKenzie (who did primary research in cardiology, especially arrhythmias, in the late 19th century), William Pickles (who showed that hepatitis A was an infectious disease with a three week incubation period by meticulous record keeping in Wensleydale in 1930), and more recently Julian Tudor Hart (with his 1960s view of preventive care based on an epidemiological viewpoint in Welsh valleys) and John Howie (with his 1970s analysis of prescribing in acute respiratory infections).

¹ ² ³ See notes in article.