Education And Debate

Health Profile: Challenging doctors: an interview with England's chief medical officer

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 07 May 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:1221
  1. R Smith
  1. British Medical Journal, London WC1H 9JR.

    Professor Ken Calman, the chief medical officer in England, is said by many “to have a brain the size of a planet.” Before taking up his present post - in 1991 - he was professor of clinical oncology in Glasgow, dean of postgraduate medicine in the west of Scotland, and chief medical officer in Scotland.

    RS: Many people think that the CMO doesn't have anything like the influence that he had back in the days of, for example, Sir George Godber, who was chief medical officer from 1960 to 1973. Is this true?

    KC: You must look at this historically. Each CMO has found a particular niche at a particular time. George Godber was CMO in the 1960s, a time of expansion. John Simon was CMO in the 1850s and concentrated on public health issues. George Newman in the 1920s tackled - remarkably - general education, physical education, and medical education. Wilson Jamieson in the 1940s concentrated on the new NHS and setting up the World Health Organisation.

    I am faced with a particular range of issues in a climate that has changed considerably since the 1960s, and my job is to look at the opportunities and see what I can do with them - to improve the health of the people and ensure that doctors are enabled to perform to the highest possible standards.

    RS: So on particular subjects you might have as much influence as they had?

    KC: Of course. Let me just give you three examples. The CMO - and by the CMO I mean myself and my team - remains very much the leader in shaping medical education; the Health of the Nation; and outcomes, effectiveness, and audit. And what could be more important than these?

    RS: What is the relationship between the CMO and the …

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