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Professor Jim Watson Memorial

In Memoriam – Professor J P Watson, Emeritus Professor King’s College London

Professor-JP-WatsonIt is with deepest sadness that I report the death of Jim Watson, Emeritus professor of psychiatry at King’s College London, on the 3rd August after a short illness.

Jim was the professor of psychiatry at Guy’s Hospital Medical School from 1974-2000, steering his department through the union with St Thomas hospital in 1982 and onward to the final merger with Kings College in 2000.  He was among a select band of British psychiatrists of the 1960s and '70s to take psychiatry out of the asylum and establish robust services in general hospital and community settings. His research mirrored his interest in clinical innovation, including the evaluation of community mental health, telemedicine and treatments for psychosexual disorders for which he established one of the earliest specialist multidisciplinary clinics and training programmes.

He led a vibrant, outward facing, creative and very happy department, where a serious commitment to excellence went along with a refreshing lack of pomposity and a keen sense of work being enjoyable. This was in no small part down to Jim’s commitment to improving the quality of psychiatric services, not least through ensuring excellence in the education and training of psychiatrists and making sure that medical students had a varied and stimulating exposure to psychiatry.  

He was an inspirational leader of the South East of England rotational training scheme in psychiatry, Chairman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Higher Training Committee and Chairman of the Association of University Teachers of Psychiatry.

In the mid-1990s he launched the MSc in mental health studies – a programme directed at professionals from all disciplines involved in delivering mental health services. This was extraordinarily successful, consistently oversubscribed with unprecedented numbers of applicants. Its success spawned further collaborations with university departments overseas, notably in Egypt and the Middle East, where he worked with colleagues to develop a basic level diploma in mental healthcare for wider dissemination across the region.

His commitment to improving mental health care led him to a lengthy involvement with mental health care in Pakistan. From the early 1990s, he collaborated with colleagues there, visiting regularly and helping to train staff for mental health clinics in rural settings that have now expanded to more than 15 centres, including some co-located with the Mosque and Madrassas.

Even after retirement, Jim kept up a very active contribution to psychiatry, providing teaching and mentorship to psychiatrists in the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation trust and advising on setting up a new School of Nursing in Pakistan as well as the development of a service for children with learning disabilities and autism, a service that is also a training resource for this neglected speciality in Pakistan. 

Jim’s passing will be felt as a great loss to psychiatry and by the many clinical and academic colleagues who had the privilege of knowing and working with him.

Tom K J Craig
Emeritus Professor of Social Psychiatry
King’s College London

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