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Tributes paid to Professor Helen Lester after she loses battle against illness

GP colleagues have paid tribute to the respected primary care researcher and QOF adviser Professor Helen Lester, who died on Saturday after an illness.

Professor Lester was a GP in inner city Birmingham and professor of primary care at the University of Birmingham. She played a key role in the piloting process for potential new QOF indicators on behalf of NICE, and was credited with moderating the Government’s desire to focus it more heavily on outcomes.

Professor Lester also had research interests in primary care mental health and providing care for homeless people, asylum seekers and refugees.

An online book of condolence has been launched by the Society for Academic Primary Care (SAPC) - which she chaired - and has already attracted many comments from friends and colleagues.

In a statement, the SAPC said they had lost a ‘great leader, colleague and friend’. Dr Joanne Reeve, clinical research associate at the University of Liverpool and a GP in the city, said: ‘We are shattered by the news. Yet it is also a great tribute to Helen that even as she leaves us we feel both inspired and determined to continue her work.’

Professor Lester was a member of RCGP Council and chair of the RCGP Clinical Innovation and Research Centre and mental health commissioning lead for the college. She also co-chaired the national cross-college Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health.

Professor Tony Kendrick, a GP and dean of Hull University Medical School, said Professor Lester led the field in research into the early recognition and support of people with psychosis in primary care.

He said: ‘She had insight, intelligence, and industry in spades, and made a significant difference to the care of millions of people through her own research and teaching, and her sustained leadership of academic primary care.

‘I was shocked to see her at the last RCGP/SAPC conference, fighting recurrent illness but still leading us from the front. I shall miss her very much.’

NICE deputy chief executive Dr Gillian Leng said: ‘Helen was a great support to NICE in establishing our work on indicator development for the QOF.  

‘Her wide-ranging knowledge of the issues surrounding data collection in primary care were invaluable, and her passionate support for improving the quality of services in primary care will be greatly missed.’

Professor Lester graduated from the University of Wales College of Medicine in 1985 and worked as a GP in Birmingham. She began her career in academic primary care at the University of Birmingham in 1995. Her research interests included the areas of quality improvement, the development of primary care mental health and the interactions between research, policy and clinical practice.


Readers' comments (6)

  • I was priviliged to get to know Helen when she came to work in our partnership relatively recently. A wonderful person and a brilliant doctor, she will be greatly missed by her many admiring colleagues and her patients.Condolences to her family.

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  • Hugely shocked to read this news. When I worked at the RCGP Helen always had time to help with policy development, was insightful, clear headed and most of all fun. Condolences to all her mourn her loss.

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  • This is a great loss to all who knew Helen personally and for general practice and medicine more widely. Helen's James MacKenzie lecture in November was truly inspirational and a fitting and moving farewell.

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  • How terribly sad. May she rest in peace. Condolences to all who know and love her.

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  • Azeem Majeed

    I was very sorry to hear about the death of Helen Lester. Helen and I were in medical school together. We kept in touch following qualification because of the overlapping nature of our academic work. Helen will be missed by all who knew her.

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  • I was devastated to hear of the death of Dr Lester - she was such a special person in my life, and I owe her so much. She was my GP for many years, and was my idea of the perfect doctor - very caring, warm and compassionate. Luckily for me, she understood mental health problems with the kind of empathy that cannot be taught, and I owe a lot of my recovery to her. As for physical health, she didn't just fob one off with a pill or potion - she investigated every possibility until the solution was found - or sometimes wasn't found. At least she bothered, and at least she was honest when she was unable to find a solution. I once bumped into her at the Botanical Gardens, where she was buying her sweet young daughter an ice-cream, and do want to send my condolences to her family, but also to say how incredibly lucky they were to have such a wonderful person in their lives. She was an inspiration, and I pray that her good work may continue by everyone who knew and loved her.

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