Fomer miner brings health revolution to pit villages

'One-stop shop' aims to unite provision of health and social care in communities devastated by colliery closures

Emma Dunlop

WHEN ex-pitman Jim Logan lost his job at a South Yorkshire colliery more than a decade ago he found himself at a loose end.

But following an inspirational visit to Cuba and with the help of his GP wife – daughter of miners' leader Arthur Scargill – he is about to open a pioneering 3m health centre in the former mining community of Kendray, outside Barnsley.

The centre, which Mr Logan will manage, is dedicated to helping rebuild the mining community, devastated by the closure of numerous pits in the area.

It will be the first of its kind in the country, and it is hoped it will pave the way for others to follow.

Mr Logan was formerly in charge of hundreds of men as underground manager at Barnsley's Grimethorpe colliery – famed for its brass band and as setting for the award-winning film Brassed Off.

The pit was the heart of the community, generations of men working there year after year.

But when mine after mine began closing across the country in the 1980s and 1990s, the miners at Grimethorpe knew it was only a matter of time before they too were doomed.

And 13 years ago the pit finally shut its doors, leaving Mr Logan, 51, and hundreds of other men out of work.

At first Mr Logan, whose wife is Dr Margaret Scargill, 43, daughter of Arthur Scargill, the man who led Britain's miners in their strike against pit closures in 1984-85, transferred his management skills from the mining industry to the National Health Service.

He carried out a number of projects for Barnsley Health Authority, including setting up a practice managers' group and a management training project for Sheffield and Barnsley which is still in operation today.

He also became manager at Ashville Medical Centre in Barnsley, where he met his future wife.

They married, had two sons and live in a farmhouse between Barnsley and Wakefield, where Mr Logan farms 14 acres, raising a few animals including sheep and goats.

But his passion was to build a health centre to help rebuild devastated mining communities.

He said: "I am a 51-year- old Kendray lad who worked underground from the age of 15. I left school with no qualifications and worked my way through the NCB training programmes to finally achieve the position of underground manager at Grimethorpe colliery.

"The unfortunate and premature closure of the mining industry meant the end of my ambition to become manager of my own mine."

Working in primary health care led Mr Logan to develop a vision of how the needs of the former mining communities around Barnsley could be met.

Many were, and are, in a desperate state. Social problems such as drug and alcohol abuse multiplied once the pits had been taken from the communities.

Mr Logan knew there had to be changes, with health and social care being provided together, so he began to look at other models – including foreign countries.

He and eminent British cardiologist Walter Rhoden travelled to Cuba where its health care system is recognised as not only the best of any country in the third world, but also better in some aspects than some services in the developed world.

There the authorities had developed a network of "polyclinics", or one-stop shops, an idea he brought back to Kendray.

At the root of the project is a belief in the need to unite provision of health and social care.

He took proposal to amalgamate the two care sectors to Barnsley Health Service and Barnsley Council Social Services Department. But this was turned down, department chiefs saying budgets must remain separate.

Undeterred, he went ahead and drew up plans for such a centre, deciding to field the project himself.

Throughout the development of the plan he worked closely with the six doctors and staff who were to work at the centre, including his own wife. Once it was complete he sought and won the funding.

Now it has turned been turned into a reality providing chiropody, dental services, ophthalmology, pharmacy, dietetics, midwives, community psychiatric services, and physiotherapy.

It will open for the first time this Thursday, and will serve the populations of the former mining communities of Kendray, Stairfoot, Ardsley, and parts of Barnsley town centre, Worsborough and Lunwood.

emma.dunlop@ypn.co.uk