Nigel Henry Harris

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 18 October 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:831
  1. Andrew Harris

    Long before the contemporary drive for patient choice, Nigel Harris was a doctor who championed patient's interests. He was an orthopaedic surgeon to St Charles and St Mary's Hospital in London for 26 years. Soon after arriving there at St Charles' in 1964, where he became head of the orthopaedic department, he set about addressing waiting lists. He informed general practitioners all over the country when his department had empty beds, so that those who had been waiting for hip or knee replacement in other places could be admitted and his department work to full capacity. He insisted on giving the date of their operation to all his patients at the time they attended outpatients, much to the displeasure of administrators of the time. Government policy today is trying to achieve similar benefits for NHS patients everywhere: Nigel Harris did it 35 years ago without managerial dictat. In many ways, he was a man before his time. He gave publicity to the patient safety implications of allowing doctors who had trained abroad to practise when their English was not adequate. He was accused of being racially motivated by an MP, and, without support from the medical profession or any financial capital, he successfully privately sued the MP for slander. Nowadays it is routinely accepted that to practise medicine all doctors must demonstrate an adequate standard of English.

    Nigel Henry Harris was born in 1924, and as a child showed considerable sporting prowess. At school he became victor …

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