Nye play: Professor Margaret Ikpoh reflects on Bevan and the NHS

For us here at the RCGP, the National Health Service sits at the beating heart of our work. Millions can now take credit for its progress and evolution since its inception in 1948, but it all stemmed from the ambitious vision of Aneurin “Nye” Bevan. 

I had the pleasure of attending a performance of the new play 'Nye' at London's Olivier Theatre this April, which remembers the life and career of the founder of the NHS. It is now interesting to reflect on how much of his work in healthcare is still relevant to us today. 

The play is a must-watch for anyone who works for, has worked in, or has ever sought advice/treatment from the NHS. Michael Sheen delivered a phenomenal performance to honour his fellow Welshman. 

It offers a glimpse into the life of Bevan, the visionary political force behind the NHS. Although it is not explicitly about leadership, my three takeaways summarise Bevan’s style:

  • Audacity and vision: His audacity to challenge both Churchill and the Labour Party demonstrates the importance of bold vision in leadership. Bevan’s unwavering belief in creating the NHS against all odds exemplifies how leaders must dare to dream big and push boundaries.
  • Navigating opposition: Effective leaders often navigate resistance. Despite facing opposition from the nation’s doctors, he persisted in championing the NHS engaging in dialogue, and finding solutions even when met with strong opposition. His determination serves as a lesson in resilience.
  • Balancing personal and political: Balancing personal and professional aspects is crucial for leaders, something I still find difficult to do. Bevan's personal struggles, including his relationship with his wife are interwoven with his political journey. Sheen's nuanced portrayal reveals Bevan’s vulnerability beneath his confident exterior, emphasising the need for empathy and self-awareness in leadership roles.

 Find out what the RCGP is doing to foster confident leaders in general practice

About the writers

Professor Margaret Ikpoh is a GP partner at Holderness Health in East Yorkshire and is Vice Chair for Professional Development and Standards at the RCGP.

She is an Associate Director for Primary Care at Hull York Medical School, and a GP trainer. Her regional work extends to co-chairing the regional Primary Care Workforce Group with NHS England and Improvement for the North-East and Yorkshire Regional People Board.

She is recognised for her work with the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Task groups at the RCGP and was awarded Fellow of the Year at the 2021 RCGP Inspire Awards ceremony.