23 May 2019

RCGP to Honour Pioneering Psychoanalysts Who Transformed GP Training with Blue Plaque at Former London Home

Celebrated psychoanalysts, Michael and Enid Balint, who had a profound influence on the development of general practice around the world, will be honoured by the Royal College of General Practitioners with a blue plaque at their former Regents Park home this week.

The psychoanalysts worked with groups of pioneering GPs in the 1950s, holding teaching and research seminars to explore the dynamics of the doctor-patient relationships and its role in diagnosis and treatment.

Their insights proved so powerful that there are still Balint societies worldwide dedicated to the training of doctors and to a sensitive and humane understanding of the tasks of medicine.

A blue plaque in commemoration of the couple's life and work will be unveiled at their former home at 7 Park Square West on Thursday (16 May) during a special ceremony to be attended by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Ruth Bush.

The commemoration is being made by the RCGP's Heritage Committee and the Balint Society - 50 years after the group was founded to continue their work.

This is the fifth blue plaque to be presented by the RCGP. Previous recipients are doctor turned novelist, Archibald Joseph Cronin; Fraser Rose, co-founder of the RCGP; RMS McConaghey, a member of the RCGP's Foundation Council and founding editor of the British Journal of General Practice; and Professor Richard Scott, the first professor of general practice in the world.

Michael Balint was born in Budapest on 3 December 1896. The son of a GP, he studied medicine at Semmelweiss University and later trained in psychoanalysis with Sandor Ferenczi.

He emigrated to the UK in 1938 following hostility towards psychoanalysis from the Hungarian Fascist Government. He began practising in Manchester before taking up a position at London's Tavistock Clinic.

It was there that he met his wife and collaborator, Enid Balint and became established an outstanding reputation in two distinct fields – as one of the foremost theorists in psychoanalysis, and a pioneer researcher into the doctor patient relationship.

Enid was born in London on 1 December 1903. After studying psychoanalysis, she began working at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and joined a group of social workers and psychologists committed to the idea of investigating marital problems.

Together, the pair developed Balint groups whereby physicians had means to share problems of general practice, specifically focused on responses of doctors to their patients.

The UK Balint Society was founded in 1969 to continue the work begun by Michael and Enid Balint in the 1950s. It is this year celebrating 50 years of helping health and social care professionals better understand the emotional content of their relationship with patients or clients as Balint groups now reach into hospitals, medical schools and community teams.

Michael Balint died on 31 December 1970 whilst serving as president of the British Psychoanalytical Society.

Dr Caroline Palmer, president of the Balint Society, said: "We are thrilled that the RCGP has publicly honoured Michael and Enid Balint and their work.

"The Balints had a profoundly positive effect on the development of general practice, and the Balint Society continues to foster links between psychoanalysis and general practice.

"All our GP members are also members or fellows of the RCGP and we are delighted that this occasion brings the College and the Society closer together – something especially exciting and significant as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Balint Society this year."

Professor Mayur Lakhani CBE, president of the RCGP, said: "I am pleased to be able to unveil this plaque as a legacy on the building where Michael and Enid Balint lived and where I am sure so many inspiring ideas were formed and which influenced generations of GPs.

"Their methods have helped us to better understand the holistic nature of general practice, offering insight about the relationships between patients and doctors that continues to be explored and which we still see having an impact on the profession and patient care today."

Thursday's celebration will take place at 7 Park Square West, Regents Park from 4.30pm. Special guests will include Caroline Palmer, president of the Balint Society; a former Balint student; the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Ruth Bush; and RCGP president, Mayur Lakhani, who will unveil the plaque.

Further Information
RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.