‘What’s all the fuss about?’ is how my friend and colleague Peter Farmer, who died suddenly in November 2012 of a stroke, aged 68, would have responded to this tribute. Modest to a fault, he never quite realised how talented he was, and how much he was loved. Countless people had their lives touched and improved by him, and his loss is felt literally worldwide.
Born in Birmingham, Peter was educated at Handsworth Grammar School and was a graduate of London University (mathematics, 1966) and Birmingham University (operational research, 1968). He then worked as a management consultant and a statistician before joining Ernst & Young Management Consultants in 1980, where he became executive director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. From 1997-2000 he was managing partner for central and eastern Europe at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In 1985 the Department of Health and Social Security commissioned Julia Cumberlege, then chair of Brighton Health Authority, to lead a review of community nursing in England. She invited Peter to be vice chair, and later as a government health minister sought his help to review maternity services in 1993.
Peter put his expertise to good use in many other pro bono and public service projects. A quietly passionate believer in social justice and strong supporter of the NHS, he was actively involved with numerous charities and health organisations. He was vice-chair of the Whittington Hospital NHS trust, London, from 1998 to 2007.
Managing a major World Health Organization project to reform the health system in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2004 to 2009, Peter’s talents were brilliantly suited to building trust in a post-conflict country. There like everywhere else people adored him, and his beloved West Bromwich Albion football team acquired a devoted Bosnian following.
His empathy, intelligence and compassionate pragmatism made him a fantastic friend and superb consultant. Lest all this sounds too saintly, it was seasoned by a wicked sense of humour and love of the good life. He would invite lucky chums on annual cricket pilgrimages to Lord’s and the Oval, his backpack laden with prosecco and pork pies. As his friend Terry Wiggs said at his memorial event, ‘Whenever I think of Peter, it’s always July and the sun is always shining.’
Peter is survived by his first wife Ingrid; their daughters Kirstie and Leila; his second wife Rosalynde and her children Amanda and Ben; and their six grandchildren Ryan, Jago, Anna, Ethan, Rosie and Isaac.