Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Life and Death

Pushing at the bolted door: a tribute to George Godber

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 08 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5360
  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner, London
  1. aque22{at}

    What would the former chief medical officer have made of the current fragmentation of primary care?

    On 9 November the Royal College of Physicians celebrated the life and work of Sir George Godber, who died on 7 February 2009 at the age of 100 (BMJ 2009;338:b710, doi:10.1136/bmj.b710). Having had the great good fortune to be invited to contribute to the seminar that celebrated his 85th birthday, I became one of the many regular recipients of his warmly encouraging handwritten letters. A man of unquestioned integrity and courage, George (“Couldn’t we forget this ‘Sir’ nonsense? I’ve always hated it.”) served as chief medical officer from 1960 to 1973 and as deputy chief medical officer for the decade before that. He is widely agreed to have been the best ever chief medical officer, a view generously endorsed by the current incumbent, Liam Donaldson.

    What would George have made of the current state of the NHS? All his writing, both public and private, reveals a man with a strong sense of history and a determination to understand the past in order to look to …

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