Chief Medical Officer (United Kingdom)

Chief Medical Officer (United Kingdom)

There are four Chief Medical Officers (CMO) in the United Kingdom who are appointed to advise their respective governments on health related matters: Her Majesty's Government, the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government[1] and the Welsh Assembly Government. The CMO is the most senior advisor on health matters in each government, and each CMO is assisted by one or more Deputy Chief Medical Officers.

In England, the CMO is a member of the board of the National Health Service (NHS), a civil servant in the Department of Health, and head of the medical civil service. The Republic of Ireland has a similar officer.

The Chief Medical Officer is a qualified medical doctor whose specialty is in public health and in the health of communities, rather than health of individuals. The CMO is one of the six chief professional officers, one for each of six professions, who advise the government in their respective specialty.[2]

The equivalent U.S. term is Surgeon General. The term Surgeon General is also a used in the British Armed Forces for the head of medical services. In non-government organisations, such as policing, chief medical officer may refer to a senior medical post in the organisation. When appointed outside government the chief medical officer will often decide on physical and mental fitness to serve issues, and the role may not be in public health.


Chief Medical Officers for Her Majesty's Government

The historic post was created in Victorian times to help to prevent cholera epidemics.[3] In 1969 the post of Chief Medical Officer for Wales was created, and prior to this both England and Wales were covered by the post of Chief Medical Officer of England and Wales.[4]

  • Dr William Duncan 1847–1855 (the first CMO for the UK)
  • Sir John Simon 1855–1876
  • Dr Edward Cater Seaton 1876–1879
  • Sir George Buchanan 1879–1892
  • Sir Richard Thorne-Thorne 1892–1899
  • Sir William Henry Power 1900–1908
  • Sir Arthur Newsholme 1908–1919
  • Sir George Newman 1919–1935
  • Sir Arthur McNalty 1935–1940
  • Sir Wilson Jameson 1940–1950
  • Sir John Charles 1950–1960
  • Sir George Godber 1960–1973
  • Sir Henry Yellowlees 1973–1984
  • Sir Donald Acheson 1984–1991
  • Sir Kenneth Calman 1991–1998
  • Sir Liam Donaldson 1998–31 May 2010[3][5]
  • Professor Dame Sally Davies from 1 June 2010 [5]

Chief Medical Officers for Scotland

Through various reorganisations, the CMOs for Scotland has been the chief medical officer in the Local Government Board for Scotland, Scottish Board of Health, Department of Health for Scotland, the Scottish Home and Health Department, the Scottish Executive Health Department and now the Scottish Government:[4]

  • JB McLintock (1894–1898)
  • JB Russell (1898–1904)
  • Sir Leslie Mackenzie (1904–1929)
  • JP Kinloch (1929–1932)
  • JL Brownlie (1932–1937)
  • JM Mackintosh (1937–1941)
  • Sir Andrew Davidson (1941–1954)
  • Sir Kenneth Cowan (1954–1964)
  • Sir John Brotherston (1964–1977)
  • Sir John Reid (1977–1985)
  • Dr Iain Macdonald 1985–1989
  • Prof Sir Kenneth Calman 1989–1991
  • Dr Robert Kendell 1991–1996
  • Prof Sir David Carter 1996–2000
  • Dr Ernest Macalpine ("Mac") Armstrong 2000–2005
  • Dr Harry Burns 2005–current[6]

Chief Medical Officers for Wales

The Welsh regional post was created in 1969, prior to this there was one post for both England and Wales, the Chief Medical Officer for England and Wales.[4]

  • Dr Richard Bevan 1969–1977
  • Prof Gareth Crompton 1978–1989
  • Dame Deirdre Hine 1990–1997
  • Dr Ruth Hall 1997–2006
  • Dr Tony Jewell 18 April 2006–present

Chief Medical Officers for Northern Ireland

  • Dr Henrietta Campbell
  • Dr Michael McBride 2006–present

See also

  • Chief Medical Officer, Republic of Ireland


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