Observations BMJ Confidential

Liam Donaldson: Proud of smoke-free public places

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5659 (Published 28 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5659


Liam Donaldson was England’s chief medical officer for more than a decade, from 1998 to 2010. His greatest achievement was to bring about the ban on smoking in public places despite opposition from the government of the day. He also backed a minimum price for alcohol, championed patient safety, and shepherded sensible rules on stem cell research into legislation. A lifelong supporter of Newcastle United (a condition for which there is no known cure), he marked his inauguration as chancellor of Newcastle University in 2009 by awarding an honorary degree to Alan Shearer, a club icon.

What was your earliest ambition?

Cowboys were everything. My hope was to be deputised by a passing sheriff and join his posse in pursuit of outlaws. But disappointingly few sheriffs galloped past our house in Rotherham.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

The first chief medical officer, John Simon, who served for 21 years. His crucial influence on the public health measures introduced over that time laid the foundations for the improvements to the country’s health that took place over the new century.

What was the worst mistake in your career?

Turning down the chance to apply to be NHS chief executive. Building a new service around health, quality, and safety by igniting the passion of a million loyal and dedicated staff would have been a …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription