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Dr Ron Singer, GP who fought to protect the NHS

A popular teacher of younger medics always held firm to the founding principles of the National Health Service

12 June, 2020 — By Dr John Launer

Dr Ron Singer

A NORTH London GP who was one of Britain’s leading campaigners for the NHS has died aged 71.

Dr Ron Singer hit the headlines in 2012 when he pursued the then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley down a corridor at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, insisting that he should answer questions about the Health and Social Services Bill, which set in train the fragmentation and privatisation of health service provision.

Ron was ushered away by security guards, and Mr Lansley never answered his questions.

Brought up in Finchley, Ron attended William Ellis School in Highgate and studied medicine at Cambridge University and King’s College London, where he and fellow students supported a strike by ancillary workers.

He began his medical career as a junior doctor at Hackney Hospital. After qualifying as a GP he became a partner at the Forest Road Group Practice in Edmonton, where he remained for more than 25 years.

There he helped to build up a primary healthcare team that reflected his own personal values of mutual respect and equal treatment to all without discrimination.

Ron was a popular teacher of younger GPs, a regular writer for the medical press and was a member of the General Practitioner Committee of the British Medical Association.

A lifelong socialist and trade unionist, Ron always held firm to the founding principles of the National Health Service as conceived by Aneurin Bevan – one that was free at the point of delivery, publicly funded, available for all, and part of comprehensive social provision from the cradle to the grave.

He was a frequent speaker at public meetings and demonstrations to support local services when they were under threat. He became chairman of the Medical Practitioners’ Union, later Doctors in Unite, and celebrated its centenary in 2014.

A committed anti-racist, Ron was involved in the Anti-Nazi League in the 1970s and later campaigned for Stand Up to Racism. In recent years he also went to Calais to volunteer in the refugee camps and raised financial support for them.

After retirement, Ron moved to Newham where he and his wife Jan established Newham Keep Our NHS Public to oppose privatisation and health service cuts.

His clearly articulated views and appearance, with a distinctive white beard, made him widely recognised across the NHS.

Ron was known for his kindness, courtesy and diplomacy and he always attracted respect from health service colleagues, including those whose politics differed from his own.

He was a keen jazz trumpeter, took flying lessons that enabled him to fulfil his ambition of making a solo flight, and loved spending time on the boat that he and Jan kept in West Wales.

Ron died on May 28. He is survived by Jan, his stepchildren and very many colleagues and friends who regarded him as a professional and political role model.

• Dr John Launer, a retired GP and author of ‘How Not to Be A Doctor’ and other essays 


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