Harry Keen

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 07 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2852
  1. Edwin Gale, emeritus professor
  1. 1School of Clinical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TH, UK
  1. edwin.gale{at}

Pioneering diabetes researcher, staunch NHS supporter, and champion of people with chronic disease

Nita Forouhi

Harry Keen was acting as a GP locum in Eltham when he was called to see a boy whose measles had been complicated by bronchitis. He examined the boy, left a prescription, collected his 2 shilling fee, and said he would be back in a couple of days. On his return, the mother told him that Billy was a lot better. “As we spoke,’’ said Harry, ‘‘a loud hacking cough came from upstairs, and I commented that he didn’t sound better. ‘Oh no,’ said the mother, ‘that’s not Billy, it’s Johnny, his brother.’ When I offered to take a look at him, she said, ‘I’d rather you didn’t—we really can’t afford it. He’s just the same as Billy, so I’ve given him some of Billy’s leftover medicine.’ It was 5 July 1948 (the first day of the NHS). I told her that from that day it wouldn’t cost her anything and eventually walked away feeling much lighter in my heart as well as my trouser pocket.”

Harry was mutualist to the marrow. He had no time for …

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