Dr Steven Curson
Dr Steven Curson is an educational innovator, trainer and communicator on health issues.
Steven was born and raised in North London. His parents met during the war, and his mother was a German Jewish Refugee and his father what is sometimes called an autodidact; a self-educated man who remarkably trained as a dentist, despite impoverished circumstances, and eventually became Professor of Dentistry at King's College.
Stephen himself went to William Ellis School in Parliament Hill Fields, founded in the nineteenth century to teach 'useful' subjects; as they were described by the founder, such as science and remarkably social science and to develop the faculty of reason; an approach very different from many other schools of the time. From William Ellis School, Steven gained admission to Cambridge to read medicine and it was there that he met his wife, Ruth, herself a medical student and now a distinguished gynaecologist.
From the outset, however, Steven was set to become a general practitioner rather than a hospital-based doctor. He attributes this to an early experience when, as a child in some distress, his local GP came out at night and, as he puts it, cured him.
After the usual period of training in hospital, Steven then joined a practice at Walworth Road which was led by two remarkable GPs, John McEwan and John Hewitson. It is widely acknowledged that this was a path-breaking practice, taking the best of the NHS into some of the most disadvantaged communities. It is fair to say that this was not just a medical practice but a group of people sharing a philosophy about social justice. John Hewitson himself was politically an anarchist linked, we believe, to the Freedom Press. The practice gained a reputation for its outreach work holding regular surgeries, for example, in the homeless centres in the Spike and Guildford Street, and worked closely with hospitals such as Guys and St Thomas.
It was possibly helpful, but not necessarily decisive, that it transpired at interview that one of the partners in the practice came from the same small town in Germany as his mother. But Steven, true to his vocation, stayed in the practice which became the Princess Street Group Practice for the rest of his career.
Being a GP would have been a sufficiently demanding career in itself, but from very early on, Steven became involved in education and training of others. In the early 1970s, staff at King's College London, including David Morrell, solicited the support of four local practices to establish what is now the Department of General Practice and Primary Care at King's. Steven was involved in this from the outset and became the first GP in South London, perhaps in London more generally, to take undergraduate students into the practice for training. He subsequently became course director for postgraduate training at St Thomas and has remained a passionate believer in continuous professional training and development. This was the hallmark of his own practice and a characteristic of his leadership, at all functions and levels.
He has always been a strong communicator and it was early in his career that he embarked on a parallel course, as a media doctor. Every Tuesday afternoon all his patients could tune in to LBC to hear their Dr Curson giving advice on all sorts of different medical ailments. Apart from radio he also worked for the prominent health and wellbeing magazine, Top Sante, published in the UK and France, in a similar vein.
For many years, the idea of primary care was most definitely secondary in health, but there were those who saw the future more clearly. In the 1980s, Steven and a few enlightened local GPs got together with others to champion the idea of a local GP-run hospital. Designed by Edward Cullinan Architects, a practice opened in 1985 in the Lambeth Community Care Centre in Monkton Street. It is located in a quiet 19th century back street overlooking its own beautiful garden. It was designed to accommodate short-stay patients cared for by in-house nurses, therapists and their own GP, and was an innovation in the attempt to provide medical treatment to patients in a home style environment.
It has been widely reported in the medical press and was singled out in the Tomlinson report as a model for Community Health Services in London. This was the epitome of primary care in practice; a path-breaking development which anticipated current thinking and policy. The provision of health is changing and whereas 35 years ago, pride of place and indeed resourcing was given to acute and general hospitals, today we see a major shift towards primary care, towards preventative medicine and indeed the whole notion of wellbeing. Steven Curson was clearly a pioneer in the way he anticipated the role and significance of community-based health provision.
In his long career, Steven became involved in all sorts of health management and policy for the Health Authority, visiting practices and local GPs and mentoring GPs. He was chair of the North Southwark PCG and on the Professional executive (PEC) for the Southwark PCT. He also worked for the PCT as one of their appraisers.
Over the years, Steven also provided support for many students and staff at London South Bank University who have been patients at the practice.
LSBU was recently granted planning permission for the construction of two major new buildings on the Southwark campus which will engage with health. One will be the new home for the Health Faculty and for education and the other will be shared between the students union and the Princess Street Group Practice. In anticipation of this new development, the Practice has entered into a memorandum of understanding for developing teaching and training jointly with the Faculty of Health.
He formally retired after 35 years and there is little doubt that he will maintain his passion for education and training. Dr Steven Curson was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of London South Bank University for his services and leadership in health education, his passionate advocacy of professional training, and for his devotion to the provision of health for patients in the community.