Intended for healthcare professionals


Nigel Hawkes: medical journalist and director of Straight Statistics

BMJ 2021; 375 doi: (Published 22 October 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n2579
  1. Annabel Ferriman
  1. London, UK
  1. ferriman{at}

In June 2010 the medical journalist Nigel Hawkes, who has died from a heart attack at the age of 78, ran into one of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s advisers whom he knew well and whom he greeted warmly since they were old friends. “You’re a troublemaker,” she hissed, “always writing those ghastly articles in TheBMJ.” And she turned away.

This story, recounted in one of Hawkes’s columns, demonstrates one of his great strengths as a journalist. He was well known for being politically right of centre in his private life, but he never allowed party preferences, personal prejudice, or pettiness to cloud his judgment when it came to writing.

He was also unique in being able to take an impenetrable statistical conundrum and not only explain it to you clearly but delight you with his explanation. He made statistics fun and sweetened even the most labyrinthine complexities of NHS organisation.

Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of The BMJ, described him thus: “He was such a pillar of strength and wisdom and wit. We relied …

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