IT WAS with a heavy heart that Eastern Eye reported the death last Monday (26) of Dr Kailash Chand, a friend and supporter of this newspaper for many years. This week, some of those who knew Dr Chand have paid tribute to him in a special memorial feature.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association (BMA) council chair
I have known Kailash for over 20 years, since he was first elected to the BMA’s GP committee in 1999. We became instant allies; we shared so much. I loved his sense of conviction, passion, and commitment to the NHS and all it stood for. He was fearless to speak out about what he thought was right, regardless of political hue.
He became a true, loyal friend over the decades – an older brother as he would call himself. We got to know each other’s families and I realised how much of a wise and generous person he was, giving so much of himself to others, wider society and political arenas.
Kailash was instrumental in my progression in the BMA, always encouraging me to succeed. It was a particularly proud moment in my life to fulfil his wish to see me as the first ethnic minority chair of the BMA UK Council.
Kailash suffered disadvantage and hurdles when he came to the UK in 1978, and his experience alongside that of other ethnic minority overseas doctors has been an important spur in my own campaigning for race equality in our health service.
Yet Kailash achieved so much in his career.
As a single-handed GP, he transformed a small practice to a large successful medical centre, became the first ethnic minority deputy chair of BMA UK council – later becoming vice president of the BMA – was awarded Fellowship of the Royal College of GPs, and awarded an OBE for his services to the NHS and healthcare.
Kailash led a life of service – to other doctors, to patients and to the health service. He was a rare, special human being whose death leaves a huge void, but whose legacy will live on in all those who knew him.
Dr Ramesh Mehta, president, British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO)
The sudden passing away of Kailash has been shocking. He has been a friend, philosopher and guide for me for over 20 years. We initially met in the British Medical Association (BMA) and quickly became friends. Kailash passionately campaigned to make the NHS a better institution and he was one of the most inspirational medical leaders of our time. He was a brave NHS hero who never feared to challenge the political power.
He always spoke for the welfare of patients. He was talented, genuine, approachable, a true leader and yet humble. We will miss his unparalleled wisdom and kindness. He was a very active BAPIO member and very much enjoyed being a part of it. I was able to call upon his wisdom for advice at a short notice. There was a huge mutual respect between us.
Kailash has been an important part of BAPIO’s journey and stood by us at all good and challenging times. His enormous network of contacts was eternally useful. He was a very sensitive poet and master of Urdu poetry (shayari). He was able to lighten up any gathering (mehfil) with impromptu reciting amazing shayri and ghazals (poems).
People will remember him on a BAPIO dance video during the Covid-19 pandemic when he typically danced on Na Mangu Sona Chandi (from the film, Bobby)’ stating he desires love rather than any worldly pleasures.
His complete dedication to his wife Anisha, when she was ill, is legendary and throws light on his kind nature. Kailash, my friend, you will be sorely missed. May your soul rest in peace.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour party
This is such a devastating blow to our community. Rest in peace, Dr Kailash Chand. A brilliant GP who was a fearless defender of our NHS campaigning against privatisation. Thank you for everything you did for all of us, you were loved by our community, and you will be hugely missed.
Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of the BMA council
Kailash was a wonderful friend to so many people. The sheer amount of tributes and kind comments that have poured in since Kailash’s tragic death shows the true extent of love and admiration that there was for him.
He had three passions – his family, his friends and the NHS. Kailash was a true family man and cherished the time he had with them and also the memories he had. He would share photos of his family in times gone by and add some words in only the way that Kailash could, to show his deep love for family life.
Kailash always had time for his friends. He would always go out of the way to welcome someone he hadn’t met before and offer kind words and support to many, many others. He always supported me and offered me wise words when I had difficult decisions to make or difficult times to get through. He called me the day before he died for a chat and we talked over some recent issues and, of course, we soon began to chat about politics, which he had a strong passion for. He was a fervent supporter of the Labour Party and its progressive values in seeking to look after everyone in society.
The other huge passion for Kailash was the NHS. He truly loved it and cherished the founding principles of it being available to anyone, free at the point of use and paid for from taxation. In India he had seen the misery that comes about when you cannot afford decent healthcare and he never wanted to see that again. He campaigned fervently for the NHS and opposed privatisation and outsourcing wholeheartedly. I met Kailash at a rally supporting junior doctors who were on strike in 2016. He loved a rally or demonstration or political meeting to make his views known!
Kailash’s death has left a huge void in our lives. It is hard to think that we won’t see his lovely smile in person again or hear him on the phone encouraging and supporting us or offering to eat some curry with us. He will be missed by so many people, but we have our memories of this truly wonderful man, and it has been a huge privilege to know him and call him a friend. God bless you, my friend.
Jeremy Corbyn, former Labour party leader and Islington North MP
Like many others, I was extremely sad to hear of the death of Kailash, who, as well as being a well-respected GP, was a true socialist, always defending our NHS.
I was fortunate to work with Kailash on a number of occasions. He was frequently in touch and sent his values and passion in everything he did. His incredible depth of knowledge and never-ending capacity for campaigning made him a formidable asset for all those engaged in working to defend the NHS.
The many tributes made by MPs, trade unions, NHS campaigning groups and others are testimony to this. Kailash came to Britain as a migrant, studied and gave his life to medicine, for all. His contribution to all our lives shows how indebted we are to all migrant workers who make such an amazing contribution to our lives. Without them our NHS would not be able to function, our health and society would be much worse.
He reached the heights of the BMA, but never played footsie with the Department of Health and a Labour government would have been the stronger for his demanding support and constructive criticism. His final tweet criticised health secretary Sajid Javid for saying people should no longer “cower” from coronavirus, pointing out that 130,000 people have so far died during the pandemic, and we must continue this important work of arguing for people and health to be put first.
Kailash saw the NHS as the most civilised thing about Britain. He was right and, in his memory, we should mark his words, stepping up our campaigning to stop the ongoing privatisation of our NHS. RIP and thank you Kailash for a wonderful life of care.
Dame Clare Gerada, medical director of NHS Practitioner Health
Kailash had (so sad to write in the past tense) the magical ability for making everyone feel special, attended to, and loved. I first met him when, as chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and while challenging the proposals for reorganisation of the NHS, Kailash reached out to me, in person and via his prolific writings, where he was able make complex issues understandable.
We became good friends; he was always there when I needed him. Able to give wise advice, it was enhanced, given his reach into the medical, national policy and party-political worlds. He knew everyone and everything. He was dignified and diplomatic, always able to pour oil on troubled waters.
I am so pleased that while I was chair, I was able to support him to become a member of RCGP and later to receive his Fellowship. These awards were ones he richly deserved, having been a pillar on local general practice for decades in Manchester. He was proud of general practice, proud of his origins, having qualified in India, and we are all proud of his work to address the discrimination of doctors who had trained overseas.
Kailash leaves an enormous gap in my life. I loved him. The world is a worst place without him in it – without his joy of life, his sage advice, and his friendship.
Dr JS Bamrah, National BAPIO Chairman
Kailash was a deeply committed man who was the boldest defender of the NHS that we have known this generation. Besides that, he was a prolific medical writer, he was a close friend, a family man, and someone who selflessly helped many in their hour of need. He had a passion for cricket, Bollywood films, Urdu poetry and he loved travelling, especially to visit his family in India and the US. He leaves behind his son Dr Aseem Malhotra with whom he shared many of his passions.
Rajan Madhok, retired public health doctor
Just when I thought that life will be resuming soon, with lifting of restrictions, and that one would be able to do what old men do: have a drink, walk down memory lane, share stories, and complain about the state of the world, then the thunderbolt struck.
By an uncanny coincidence I was watching an Indian film: Ram Prasad ki Tehrvi, about the gathering of the clan after the death of the patriarch when the message arrived that Kailash was no more. Sudden, no time to say goodbye and having that long overdue visit that we kept postponing, since I now live in North Wales and because of prolonged periods of travel restrictions on cross border movement, we had not managed to get together for some time.
Among many other qualities, I admired his commitment to the NHS and his patience and used to wonder what kept him going, while I had thrown in the towel after the Jarrow March I did in 2015. We were both watching the slow destruction of the NHS, an institution we loved, but rather than let it defeat him it energised him – “Do not go gentle into that good night” – and until the very end he was actively championing it. We will all miss his fearless, thoroughly researched and objective reporting of the issues facing the NHS.
And I will miss his daily “Lesson for life”, arriving just in time for my morning tea to lift me up, and his poetry – a connoisseur of Urdu poetry – he had one for every occasion. Thank you for the good times. Sleep well, my friend.
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester
(Speaking during the launch of the Greater Manchester Police’s Achieving Race Equality report, which was presented to the Greater Manchester Race Equality Panel last week.)
I want to reflect upon the very sad news of the sudden loss of our dear friend Dr Kailash Chand, who was a member of the Greater Manchester Race Equality Panel. He was the person who first proposed to me and strongly engaged me to set up a race equality panel for Greater Manchester and if he hadn’t done that, I doubt we would have met this way to discuss this report. This is just one example of the profound impact that Kailash had on life in Greater Manchester. For many years, he served as a Tameside GP and as vice-president of the BMA and his contribution across the country is immense. He will always be known as one of the staunchest supporters of our NHS and we are reeling from his loss, but also grateful for the huge contribution he made.