Four threads make up the Jubilee Street Practice, which occupied Steels Lane Health Centre from 1982 – 1998 and moved to its current site at when the building was opened by Professor Wendy Savage.
Hartford Street Site
Dr Harry Roberts laid the first strand of the partnership in 1906. He started a medical practice in West Cornwall. His daughter writes:
“Medical Practice in Stepney in 1906 was at an extremely inefficient level; with few exceptions, it was staffed by seriously underpaid doctors who had been unsuccessful in obtaining more lucrative posts elsewhere. Dr Roberts was deeply involved with a passionate desire for justice for the underdog and said he felt he could at least be of some help as a doctor in the slums of East London if he could find a practice there. So in 1906, to Stepney he went. Those of us who remember Stepney in the early nineties will recall the incredible poverty and hardship that most people had to face; especially women. For the first year as a doctor in Stepney, my father never left the practice for a single hour. Medical fees were sixpence, to include medicine, and one shilling if you were visited on the round. It is on record that in the first year he attended over 500 confinements and never lost one mother. By the time the Health Insurance Act came into force in 1911, his practice was by far the largest and best run in East London. It had four doctors, one a woman, two qualified nurse midwives, a dentist and a masseur.”
After Dr Roberts’ death in 1946, the practice continued to be run by Dr Lottie Weihermann and Huxley Fernando, and then by Dr Harold Claff, who practised from 66 Jubilee Street until he joined the Jubilee St Practice until his retirement in 1996.
Cable Street Site
Another outstanding doctor who started in practice in Cable Street in 1927 was Hannah Billig. She was awarded the George Medal for exceptional bravery during the Blitz on London in 1941, and later in 1945 was made an MBE whilst serving in the Indian Medical Service. An exhibition of her life and work was shown at the Ragged School Museum Stepney, in 1996. Her successor was Dr Katarina (Katherine) Schopflin, medically trained in Budapest and Scotland, whose pioneering work in women’s medicine brought her an OBE shortly before her retirement in 1980. Dr Schopflin opened Steels Lane Health Centre in January 1982.
Arbour Square Site
Dr Louis Jaffe came to the London Jewish Hospital and took over a small practice in Stepney Way after the First World War, and later moved to Arbour Square to make it a large thriving practice. Despite considerable physical disability as a result of childhood polio, Dr Jaffe continued in practice until his eighties and a medical research fund was established in his memory. Dr Brian Harris joined him in 1963.
Methodist Mission Bromley Street Site
During the depression, the Methodist Church ran a medical mission for the wives and children of workers covered by the ‘stamp’, the forerunner of the National Health Service. The Mission Practice was housed first at the Castle, an ex-pub on the site of the present east London stadium and then in Bromley Street, employing several young women doctors. In 1948, this service was taken over by the NHS and Dr McGill, who had worked many years in Sierra Leone as a missionary. Dr McGill was the last of the mission doctors and the first to run it as an NHS practice. She retired in 1958 and the practice was taken over by Erica Jones. In the early 1970s, Dr Schopflin and Dr Jones revitalised the domiciliary obstetric service in Stepney.
Establishment of the Jubilee Street Practice
These four strands came together to form the Jubilee Street practice in 1978. The practice started its work from port-a-cabins in Musbury Street from 1978-81. The partnership expanded with the appointment of Mary Edmondson (trained by Dr Schopflin), Mike Young (one of the first doctors to go through the VTS at the London Hospital, trained by Brian Harris) and Sally Hull (who joined the partnership in 1980, from the vocational training scheme at St Thomas hospital, with a particular interest in developing undergraduate teaching for general practice).
In 1982, the practice moved into the renovated Steel’s Lane Health Centre on Commercial road. This building was originally bought in 1889 to form the East End Mothers’ Home – with 13 beds – a development of the Glamis Road Mothers’ Lying-in Home for the treatment of poor married women during childbirth. The Regional Health Authority in the late 1970s was keen to develop health centres and bought and renovated the building to house general practice and community services on a joint site.
When Erica Jones retired from General Practice in January 1992, a notable chapter in the life of the Jubilee Street Practice came to a close. Erica brought to the practice not only her lively and distinctive personality but also a great wealth and breadth of personal and medical experience which benefited the practice and the many young GPs she nurtured in her capacity as a trainer. Since the 1990s there has been a greater turnover of principals in the partnership. In 1992 Naomi Beer and Rebecca Viney joined, both had been on the London Hospital VTS and trained at Jubilee Street Practice. Rebecca Viney left in 1994 to be replaced by Jane Edge, who moved to Bristol in 1999 to be replaced by Nicola Hagdrup. In 1997, Dr Nicola Cowap, who had also been on the London Hospital VTS, joined the practice; she has since relocated to Watford.
Brian Harris retired in 2002 after a tremendous career spanning 35 years of work in east London General Practice. He played an important role in developing and steering the vocational training scheme in its formative years and was the medical director of the centre for primary care from 1985 to 1995. This was developed following the 1981 Acheson report into inner-city practice on which Brian was a working member. Salma Ahmed joined in 2002, taking over Brian Harris’ list. Previously a registrar in the practice (trained by Sally Hull), she has interests in training and research. Robin Cartwright from Cambridge and then Nick Silberstein from Australia were each with the practice from 2002-7. Since then, we have recruited Jens Ruhbach who has a special interest in dermatology, and Emma Ovink who leads on prescribing for the practice and also trained at the practice.
In 2010, Mary Edmondson retired after a career of over 31 years. Alongside the important contribution she made to continuing and truly personal care of her list over these years and her championship of women’s medicine, she also developed the role of undergraduate teaching in the practice and became vice-chair of Tower Hamlets LMC (local medical committee).
By 2011, the partnership had six clinical partners and, for the first time in its history, recruited a non-clinical partner. Virginia Patania has been the practice manager since 2007 and has brought a new and welcome range of management skills into the partnership. Virginia is now called the “transformation partner” rather than the older term “practice manager”.
In 2016, Dr Naomi Beer retired after 28 years at the practice (25 as a partner). Her patients and the practice were heartbroken to lose her, but her influence on the practice lives on. Alongside taking excellent care of her patients and colleagues and representing the practice at the LMC, she was voted one of the 50 most influential GPs in the country, following her blisteringly successful campaign to Save Our Surgery.
Additionally, the Jubilee Street Practice earned a CQC rating of “Outstanding” in 2016, making them only the second practice to have achieved this rating.
In 2022, Dr Salma Ahmed stepped down from the partnership after 21 years. Happily, her patients did not have to say goodbye to her completely as she is now working as a salaried GP at the practice. She continues her excellent work training the next generation of GPs through her work as a GP trainer and coaching.