Sir Gerard Vaughan

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 21 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:452

Right wing health minister in the early years of the Thatcher government

Sir Gerard Vaughan was one of only a handful of doctors to have ever served the government at ministerial level: he was former prime minister Margaret Thatcher's health minister from 1979 to 1982. In later years, as consumer affairs minister from 1982 to 1983, and on the backbenches, he was alarmed to discover how little weight the professional views of medical MPs carried. When once he volunteered to sit on a health committee, he was discouraged by the whips, who claimed “it would not be popular.”

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For Vaughan, the nature of his calling sat uncomfortably alongside his right wing credentials. His support for people affected by thalidomide, his concern for people with AIDS, and his calls for free eye and dental checks all contrasted sharply with, say, his maiden speech, which supported prescription charges and the end of free school milk. He was also in favour of the contraceptive pill being available to children under 16.

Vaughan was …

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