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RCGP Research Units Records

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2134 ARE
Held at: Royal College of General Practitioners
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Full title: RCGP Research Units Records
Date(s): 1957-1993
Level of description: Fonds
Extent: 20 metres
Name of creator(s): Royal College of General Pracitioners Research Units


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Royal College of General Practitioners was founded in November 1952 to provide an `academic headquarters for general practice [and] to raise the standards and status of general practice'.

The founders of the college wanted it to encourage, guide and co-ordinate research into the problems of general practice. A Research Committee was formed in January 1953 [See Central Records ACE G]. The college was to be a centre for family doctors to pool knowledge and experience. Advertisements were placed in the BMJ and The Lancet asking for those who were interested in research to place their name on the college's research register. A panel was formed to co-ordinate research and give advice and guidance.

Through the research register and publications in the college's research newsletter (1953-1959) it became clear that various different strands of research were being carried out including single practice research such as by John Fry (1922-1995) and multi practice research such as College organised studies' in morbidity [1958-1995] and into the effect of antibiotics on measles (1953). The college was pleased with the success of the multi-practice research and wanted to develop the research programme, there was, in the 1950's and early 1960's no university doing general practice research and so the solution was to encourage leading enthusiasts to develop units in and around their practices and their homes. These units provided practical tools and links to those interested in research across the country.

Ian Watson founded the Epidemic Observation Unit in 1953 to collate, analyse and lead groups of general practitioners who reported syndromes and shared information, mainly about infectious diseases. It was based at Peaslake, Surrey. After Watson's death in 1979 the unit was for a while linked with the University of Surrey and led by Professor Paul Grob.[See Records of RCGP Central Departments ACE G15].

The Birmingham Research Unit, directed by Dr. D. Crombie and assisted by Dr. R. Pinsent (College Research Adviser). The Unit was founded at Crombie's suburban practice in 1962 soon after the first National Morbidity Survey. The results of its study of diabetes, published in the British Medical Journal in 1962, brought the quality of its research to the attention of the medical world for the first time. The unit played a major part in disseminating the use of the age-sex and disagnostic registers thoughout general practice. Dr. D. Fleming took over as Director of the Unit upon the retirement of Dr. Crombie.

Scottish General Practitioner Research Support Unit: The Scottish General Practitioner Research Support Unit, directed by Professor Knox of the University of Dundee. The Unit was set up jointly by the Scottish Council of the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Scottish Home and Health Department in 1971. Funding from the Scottish Home and Health Department ceased in October 1980. In March 1985 the Unit became independent of the College and its activities were absorbed by the University of Dundee's Department of General Practice.

Manchester Research Unit: The Manchester Research Unit was founded in 1968 and became the Centre for Primary Care Research and Epidemiology on its relocation in 1997, to the Department of General Practice and Primary Care at the University of Aberdeen. Since 1968, the Centre has been principally involved in large-scale national longitudinal studies. Its recorder was Clifford Kay. It is perhaps best known for the continuing Oral Contraception Study which has investigated the health effects of the contraceptive pill and which is now over thirty years old. Findings from the study continue to influence clinical practice around the world. The size and comprehensiveness of the database has enabled the study to examine other issues related to women's health, such as the use of hormone replacement therapy and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Other large scale studies have been the joint RCGP/RCOG Attitudes to Pregnancy Study, and Myocardial Infarction Study

Papers relating to the Swansea Research Unit led W O Williams are in the W O Williams papers BWO.


Scope and content/abstract:

Correspondence, reports and minutes generated by Royal College of General Pracitioners Research Units: A RE A Birmingham Research Unit; A RE B Scottish General Practitioner Research Support Unit; A RE C Manchester Research Unit.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

By Unit.

Conditions governing access:

Access is at the discretion of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Requests for access should be made in writing to The Archivist, Royal College of General Practitioners, 14 Princes Gate, Hyde Park, London SW7 1PU.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright is vested in the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Finding aids:

A database of all of the College archives, down to individual file level is maintained by the Archivist. The database can be searched in the College library. There is a card index of all research projects in the archives.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred from Unit Directors to RCGP archives.

Allied Materials

Related material:

College archives:
ACE A Formal College records

Quality & Clinical
Records generated by committees and projects concerned with quality standards and clinical practice.

Records of Research committees and projects.

Private papers:
W O Williams papers
Includes Swansea Research unit papers.

Dinwoodie papers
Includes Scottish GP Research Support Unit, Dundee

John Hunt, Lord Hunt of Fawley papers

John Horder papers

Professor Patrick Byrne papers

Sir James Mackenzie papers

John Fry papers

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

RGCP Annual Reports 1953 - 2001 summarise research projects; Papers from RGCP Research Units are published in: Research Newsletter 1953-1959; Journal of the College of General Practitioners 1960-1966; Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners 1967-1976; British Journal of General Practice 1976-2001; Reports From General Practice 1965-1975; Studies on Medical Population Series [HMSO]; Oral Contraception and Health. An Interim report from the oral contraception Study (RCGP, 1974). General Histories of the RCGP include information on the research units: A History of the Royal College of General Practitioners edited by John Fry, Lord Hunt of Fawley and RJFH Pinsent (1983); The Royal College of General Practitioners Forty Years On (RCGP, 1992).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Claire Jackson, College Archivist, Royal College of General Practitioners.

Rules or conventions:
National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997; ISAD(G), Second Edition, 2000.

Date(s) of descriptions:
July 2001

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