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Sir Henry Yellowlees

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 27 April 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1037

Chief medical officer for England from 1973 to 1983

Sir Henry Yellowlees was chief medical officer (CMO) at the Department of Health for England during a decade of major reorganisation and change in the NHS. It was a period that covered two changes of political parties in government, and he served under five ministers of health: firstly Sir Keith Joseph, Conservative; then Barbara Castle followed by David Ennals (Labour); and, when Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government was elected, Norman Fowler and Patrick Jenkin.

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Shortly after Yellowlees took office, the Labour Party won the general election and Barbara Castle took over at the Department of Health and Social Services. She was keen to “finish what Nye Bevan had started,” by moving private patients out of NHS hospitals, which consultants hated. Yellowlees was “piggy-in-the-middle” in the ensuing battle between the government and the medical profession, each regarding him as the other side's ally.

During his time in office, the NHS underwent the first of a series of massive reorganisations as its three previously separate parts—the hospitals, the family practitioner services, and the …

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