An uncompromising defender of the NHS: colleagues remember Dr Ron Singer

Colleagues and friends have paid tribute after the death of north London GP Dr Ron Singer last week at the age of 71.

Dr Ron Singer
Dr Ron Singer

Dr Singer, born in 1948 - the year the NHS began - was a committed trade unionist and chaired the Doctors in Unite union for many years.

In a tribute posted on the Doctors in Unite website, he is remembered as 'passionate, principled and loyal', and an 'uncompromising defender of the NHS as Nye Bevan intended, a comprehensive health service, free at the point of delivery, publicly funded and publicly provided for all'.

In a 2014 interview with GPonline to mark the founding of the organsation - known then as the Medical Practitioners Union (MPU) - he explained the philosophy that underpinned his approach to medical politics.

'You have to be on the streets,' he said. 'You have to bring your colleagues to a point where they can see that unless they act collectively and in a fairly visible manner, the plight of general practice will not be recognised.'

Campaigning GP

Dr Singer, a GP in Edmonton, north London for over 25 years, campaigned powerfully - and visibly - for the NHS he believed in well beyond his retirement from frontline general practice.

In 2012 as then health secretary Andrew Lansley toured a north London hospital as his controversial health reforms went through parliament, Dr Singer confronted him in person, saying: 'I am a doctor of 30 years Mr Lansley, explain to me how this is going to make patients better.'

A year earlier, Dr Singer was blocked by police from delivering a letter to Mr Lansley as part of a protest outside the health department's Whitehall headquarters.

In general practice, Dr Singer believed that the profession was disempowered by independent contractor status - and felt that a shift to a fully salaried service, with doctors represented by a strong union would empower the profession to stand up better to the pressures of rising workload and demand and underfunding.

Fellow east London GP Dr Jacqui Applebee wrote in a Doctors in Unite newsletter: 'We were deeply saddened to hear of the death of our wonderful friend and comrade Dr Ron Singer. Tributes have been pouring in. It is very hard to encapsulate such a fantastic human being in words. Ron was an inspiration to so many people.'

The Unite union confirmed that Dr Singer died after a heart attack at home on 28 May.

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