Helen Lester

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 10 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2050
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. annecgulland{at}

Primary care researcher and QOF negotiator who encouraged GPs to make serious mental illness their “core business”

One of Professor Helen Lester’s last public appearances was in November last year, when she delivered the James Mackenzie lecture at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). The lecture—which can be viewed online at—is a cogent and compelling argument for treating people with severe mental illness in primary care. Lester delivered it knowing that she was dying; her husband and children, to whom she paid a poignant tribute, were in the audience.

At one point she bangs the lectern, saying: “And for me, this is probably the last time I can shine a light on a dark corner, and I can say look here, this is what matters, and this is our business.”

Liz England, a clinical lecturer in primary care at Birmingham University and a close colleague, says the lecture sums up Lester’s career-long focus on treating vulnerable people and the passion of her delivery was typical.

“It was very hard not to be passionate about something Helen was passionate about. I ended up doing mental health research because Helen got me interested. It developed from an …

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