Lives Remembered: Dr Robin Steel

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The Independent Online

My father Dr Robin Steel, a GP from Worcester who served for 15 years as a member of the General Medical Council and pioneered the postgraduate teaching of family doctors in the West Midlands, has died after a long and courageous battle against debilitating illness. He was 78.

During a medical career spanning 41 years, he treated thousands ofpatients in his own surgery andindirectly influenced the treatment of thousands more through the introduction of continuing professionaldevelopment for GPs. In 1969 heestablished the first vocational training scheme for family doctors in the West Midlands. This became the Regional GP Education Committee of the West Midlands in 1972 and later the Midlands Faculty for Postgraduate GP Education.

From 1984 to 1999, Robin served three terms on the GMC, becoming chairman of its Preliminary Proceedings Committee in 1992. He also sat for 10 years on the Council of the Royal College of General Practitioners, becoming its vice-chairman for a term, and chairman of its Ethics Committee. He delivered the 1980 McKenzie Lecture and in 1994, the College honoured him with its Foundation Award.

For 18 years until 1986 he was also secretary and spokesman of the local Medical Committee in Worcestershire and Herefordshire, and for 23 years a member – and three times chairman – of the Worcestershire Division of the British Medical Association.

Born in Worcester on 13 September 1932, Robin Steel was the fourth-generation doctor in a family whose medical calling stretches back for more than 170 years. His daughter, a GP in Oxford, continues the tradition.

The son of Dr William Deane Steel, he went to Canford School in Dorset. In 1951, he entered University College, London where, as a medical student at University College Hospital hemet Kathleen Knott, a nurse from Yorkshire. They were married in 1957.

After qualifying in 1956, Robin completed his residencies, then began specialist training as a psychiatrist. In 1960 he joined the RAF for three years on a short service commission, serving briefly at RAF Halton near Aylesbury before being posted to Middle East Command as a neuropsychiatrist at the military hospital in Aden. He was in great demand as the only psychiatrist in that part of Arabia.

Steel left the RAF in 1963 with the rank of squadron leader and returned to Worcester to join his father in the practice of Galbraith, Steel, Martin and Galbraith. It was the beginning of 34 years as an intensely busy Worcester family doctor. During his long career, Steel was recognised as a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. In 1987, he was awarded the MBE for services to medicine.

On retirement, he observed that it was "a great privilege to have been born in Worcester and to have lived, worked and had my family, all within a mile's radius." Sadly, cancer struck within months of his retiring, coupled later with a form of Parkinson's Disease and Lewy Body Dementia, which he endured with immense courage and fortitude. He died peacefully at his home on 18 June 2011, finally able to complete the circle of his life in Worcester as he had wished. He leaves his wife Kathleen, three children and seven grandchildren.

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