The highest new entry in this year’s Power 50, Dr Naomi Beer has shown the profession’s leaders a thing or two about how to battle for change.
She has become the most recognisable face of the ‘Save Our Surgeries’ drive in East London that has become such a needle in the side of managers that they have promised additional support.
The campaign has grabbed national headlines and propelled the campaigners to the steps of 10 Downing Street to deliver their petition over NHS England’s plan to abolish MPIG.
Their campaign saw hundreds of patients, colleagues and supporters pour onto the streets of east London to protest and successfully drew attention to the fact that despite achieving all their targets and being commended for the care they were giving, GP practices were facing financial ruin.
And as Pulse went to press they were on the brink of a deal with NHS England to ensure they could survive. A remarkable victory for a small campaign involving 29 practices, that has left the RCGP and BMA scrambling in their wake.
Dr Beer says the marches provided a ‘glimmer of hope’ that the practices could be saved ‘if only the people of this country realised what was really going on’.
She has been driven in part, she says, by the death last April of her husband of 27 years. ‘General practice has always been a huge and significant part of my life and when it became obvious that it was being destroyed, either deliberately or by default through ignorance of it’s incredible potential, I thought: “I am not going to let another wonderful thing die without a fight”.’
Dr Beer says has been hard to face up to the reality that ‘there are people out there – and they are in power at the moment – that genuinely believe that markets and corporations are the answer to the issues facing the NHS, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
But she says that their campaign has helped highlight that practices – such as hers – treat patients in a very deprived areas, many of whom do not speak English and with multiple complicated medical problems.
Dr Beer and her colleagues have provided much-needed hope to other practices facing oblivion, showing that they need to mobilise their great asset – their patients. But whatever happens she advises GPs to guard their integrity: ‘At the end of the day, whatever they do to medicine and the NHS, it’s still about you and the patient.’