This site is intended for health professionals only

GP colleagues pay tribute as former Doctors in Unite chair Dr Ron Singer dies

Former Doctors in Unite chair and retired GP Dr Ron Singer has died.

Dr Singer died aged 71, on Thursday (28 May), after suffering a heart attack.

Revered for his passion for the NHS and influence in overcoming injustices within the medical profession, he was remembered by colleagues as ‘the very best of us’ and ‘a consistent fighter on the right side’.

Dr Singer, who practised in Edmonton, North London, graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1973 and regularly contributed to Pulse over the years.

He was chair of Doctors in Unite, formerly the Medical Practitioners Union, for many years, and celebrated its centenary as chair in 2014. He was elected a vice president in 2018.

Members of Doctors in Unite said they were ‘deeply saddened’ to hear of the death of their ‘wonderful friend and comrade Dr Ron Singer’, as tributes were ‘pouring in’.

The group said in a statement: ‘It is very hard to encapsulate such a fantastic human being in words. Ron was an inspiration to so many people. He was passionate, principled, and a loyal friend, who never shied away from the front line fighting against injustice.’

Doctors in Unite went on to refer to Dr Singer as ‘an uncompromising defender of the NHS as Nye Bevan intended’, namely ‘a comprehensive health service, free at the point of delivery, publicly funded and publicly provided for all’.

Rembembering an anecdote relating to ‘Andrew Lansley’s dastardly Health and Social Care Act’, Dr Singer’s union colleagues said it ‘had Ron chasing the then health secretary down the corridors of hospitals trying to make him explain how the Bill would be nothing but a disaster’.

‘Lansley ignored him as he was hurried away by security guards, but Ron has been proved right,’ they said.

‘Ron may have died but his legacy will live on for a very long time. We will miss him.’

Dr Singer made headlines in 2012 for his support of doctors’ strikes, and remained an active member in the area until very recently, with a focus on encouraging doctors to join trade unions – a topic he spoke about on Doctors in Unite’s podcast a month ago. 

In April, Dr Singer launched a petition titled: ‘The Government can’t hide behind grateful applause: they must now fund the NHS properly’.

It gained almost 1,500 signatures, and, in response to leaders’ handling of coronavirus (Covid-19), he wrote: ‘The solidarity expressed through weekly applause for the NHS, carers and key workers has been truly inspiring, and a great source of support for all staff. 

‘But we need those in power to do more than just clap for us. The NHS and local authorities have been starved of resources for the last ten years. The current crisis has been worsened by a decade of government hostility towards a publicly funded health service.’

Among the many paying tribute to Dr Singer was London GP partner Dr Deborah Colvin, who told Pulse: ‘I met Ron Singer at LMC conferences many years ago. He gave such inspiring speeches at the conference. It was wonderful to see someone stand up and speak so inspiringly about the vulnerable and reminding us to keep vulnerable people whether patients, or NHS workers at the forefront of our thoughts.

‘He approached me with the idea of sitting on GPC as a representative for Doctors in Unite and was very supportive when I did so. In GPC was always comradely and encouraging to me personally, a very kind and thoughtful person. I missed his wise words and thoughtful input to GPC when he retired. It is very sad that he is gone.’

Dr Brian Gibbons, former health and social care minister in the Welsh Government, added: ‘Like most of us in the MPU, and many other GPs, Ron saw fundholding as very divisive in the medical profession and discriminatory against those patients with the greatest health care needs. He was determined to find a constructive alternative in a non-dogmatic way. 

‘Ron was also a keen musician who gave joy to many in that field as well.’

Another summarised him as a GP who was simultaneously gentle and angry about what was happening to the health service.