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Durham University

Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

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Wednesday 26 April 2017

Wolfson Annual Lecture - "Academic primary health care: an interdisciplinary endeavor"

12:00pm to 2:30pm, F009, Wolfson Building, Durham University, Queen's Campus, Stockton-on-Tees, Professor Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences, Oxford University

Wolfson Annual Guest Lecture


In 1999, Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet, accused academic primary health care of being self-absorbed, managerialised and “one of the most intellectually underdeveloped disciplines in medicine”. Only a handful of randomised trials had produced answers that were directly relevant to primary care decision-making. And in relation to the grey zones of primary care practice for which randomised trials were never going to provide the answers, primary care academics had not even begun to develop appropriate methodologies. Furthermore (claimed Horton), too much research effort was being spent on “administrative” questions. What has happened since?

This lecture will review progress in primary health care as an academic discipline the 1960s to the present day. Expect a quick overview of the standard territory (randomised trials are certainly alive and well in GP land) followed by a guided tour of lesser-known research methods in the swampy lowlands of general practice from geospatial mapping to linguistic ethnography. Horton’s allegation that primary care spends too much time researching “administration” will be critically examined with reference to the pressing policy priorities of GP commissioning, effective gatekeeping and reduction of health inequalities.


Trish Greenhalgh is an internationally recognised academic in primary health care and a practising GP. She joined the Department in January 2015 after previously holding professorships at University College London and Queen Mary University of London.

As co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Research In Health Sciences (IRIHS) unit, Trish leads a programme of research at the interface between social sciences and medicine, with strong emphasis on the organisation and delivery of health services. Her research seeks to celebrate and retain the traditional and humanistic aspects of medicine while also embracing the unparalleled opportunities of contemporary science and technology to improve health outcomes and relieve suffering.

Trish is joint module coordinator on the Knowledge Into Action (KIA) module of the MSc in Evidence Based Health Care.

Her past research has covered the evaluation and improvement of clinical services at the primary-secondary care interface, particularly the use of narrative methods to illuminate the illness experience in ‘hard to reach’ groups; the challenges of implementing evidence-based practice (including the study of knowledge translation and research impact); the adoption and use of new technologies (including electronic patient records and assisted living technologies) by both clinicians and patients; and the application of philosophy to clinical practice.

Current research projects include

  • Partnerships for Health, Wealth and Innovation - a 'research-on-research' study of the co-creation and implementation of innovations in the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR funded);
  • SCALS (Studies of Co-creating Assisted Living Solutions): A predominantly qualitative and developmental programme of research to improve how we design, introduce and evaluate technology-supported integrated care in older people with complex needs. This includes a new 4-year Senior Investigator Award from the Wellcome Trust;
  • The NIHR-funded VOCAL study of the conversational dynamics in remote (‘Skype’) consultations;
  • The NIHR-funded RAMESES-II study to develop methodological standards for realist evaluation.


Registration is now open. It is essential to register your place as places are limited and will be allocated in order of receipt. Please click here to take you to the online booking form.

Timings of the day

12:00 Buffet Lunch (The Wolfson Street, Wolfson Building)
13:00 Welcome and Introduction by Dr Amanda Ellison (Executive Director, WRIHW)
13:05 Guest Lecture by Professor Trish Greenhalgh (F009, Wolfson Seminar Room, Wolfson Building)
14:00 Questions and Answers
14:30 Close