Obituary: Patrick Guy Houghton (C3 1960-64)

Guy Houghton was the third generation of his family to serve the south Birmingham suburb of Hall Green as a General Practitioner.

He combined an interest in GP training with an emphasis on evidence-based medicine and audit. He published articles in journals and chapters in edited volumes on medical subjects, was the first chair of the Birmingham Medical Audit Advisory Group, and later served as Associate Dean in the West Midlands Postgraduate Deanery and chair of the National Primary Care Audit Group.

Guy Houghton was born in Leamington Spa. He followed his father and brother to West House School in Birmingham before winning an open scholarship to board at Marlborough College. He had decided at an early age to practise medicine, like his parents and both his siblings. Nevertheless, he chose to take additional A levels in Latin and Greek in his final year at school, and was accepted to read medicine at St John’s College, Cambridge, on condition that he passed these as well. He duly achieved a D and an E!

Guy graduated from Cambridge in 1968 as H. D. Rollaston scholar with a first class honours degree in the Medical Tripos, which he attributed in part to reproducing quotations in their original language in the paper on the History and Philosophy of Science. He enjoyed learning, and entered a variety of essay competitions, receiving awards such as the Maccabaean Prize in 1973 for an essay on the history of cholera. His medical training continued at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, where he spent several evenings each week at concerts or operas: he diligently recorded the repertoire and performers in a series of notebooks. He married a fellow medical student from Cambridge, Jennifer Margaret Anne Rumsey, in 1970. After qualifying they spent a year travelling round the world, with Guy gaining international experience of general practice through short-term posts in Saskatchewan and New South Wales. He also undertook an early locum in Lambeth with Professor David Morrell which he found particularly formative.

Guy’s first GP appointment was as an assistant in Tenbury Wells. In 1976, the couple moved back to Birmingham to become partners in the medical practice in Hall Green founded in 1910 by Guy’s grandfather, Cuthbert Houghton. After his father’s retirement, Guy became senior partner and oversaw the expansion of the family practice into Greenbank Surgery. Guy was always interested in medical education, becoming VTS Course Organiser for GP training in South and Central Birmingham in 1980. In 1991 he took on the position of Associate Advisor in General Practice in the West Midlands Deanery, later Associate Dean; in 2009 he was awarded the Robin Steel Award for Vocational Training in General Practice by the Midland Faculty of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), of which he had been made a fellow in 1990. Guy’s focus on evidence-based medicine and quality of care meant that he was involved with medical audit from the late 1980s. He was elected the first chairman of the Birmingham Medical Audit Advisory Group (MAAG), publishing newsletters and guidelines which were sent to all GPs in Birmingham. He also became RCGP Midland Faculty Audit Convenor and Chairman of the West Midlands Region GP Audit Committee in 1992, followed by election as Chairman of the National Primary Care Audit Group in 1994. In 1999 he took on the Clinical Directorship of the Birmingham Clinical Governance Unit. He published many peer-reviewed papers, including articles on GP Education, Diabetes Mellitus, Family Planning, Clinical Governance, Assessment, Appraisal and Medical Audit. During his retirement he completed an MPhil thesis at the University of Birmingham on the history of GP education in Birmingham drawing on this extensive professional experience.

A cardiac arrest in 2007 prompted his complete retirement, which permitted him to indulge his interest in foreign travel and work on his family’s genealogical archive. This was curtailed by the onset of dementia, initially at home and for the last three years as a resident of Bradbury Court in Malvern. He died peacefully in his sleep. He is survived by his wife, Jenny; three children, Hugh, Luke and Tanya; and a granddaughter, Polly.

H.A.G. Houghton