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Feature Profile

Catherine Calderwood: champion of “realistic medicine”

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 11 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5455
  1. Bryan Christie, freelance medical journalist, Edinburgh, UK

Bryan Christie talks to Scotland’s chief medical officer about her ambitions to change the way doctors treat patients

When Catherine Calderwood was appointed as Scotland’s chief medical officer in March 2015, she toured the country for six months and then decided to take a risk. She wanted to challenge the country’s doctors to change their relationship with patients and bury the notion that the “doctor knows best.”

In January, she published an annual report that asked doctors to take a fresh look at their practice and consider if patients are being harmed by overmedicalisation.1 The report suggested care could be improved by practising what Calderwood described as “realistic medicine,” an approach based on doctors spending more time listening to what patients want in order to avoid unnecessary treatment.

The report was a big success. NHS England’s former chief knowledge officer, Muir Gray, described it as one of the best he has read in 44 years. It has generated over …

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