Liam Donaldson

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Sir Liam Donaldson
Sir Liam Donaldson.jpg
Chief Medical Officer for England
In office
1 January 1998 – 31 May 2010
Preceded by Sir Kenneth Calman
Succeeded by Dame Sally Davies
Chair of the World Alliance for Patient Safety
Assumed office
Chancellor of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Assumed office
1 August 2009
Preceded by Lord Patten of Barnes
Personal details
Born (1949-05-03) 3 May 1949 (age 69)
Middlesbrough, England
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Bristol
University of Birmingham
Profession Physician

Sir Liam Joseph Donaldson FMedSci (born 3 May 1949, Middlesbrough, England, UK) is a British doctor and the current Chancellor of Newcastle University. He was previously the Chief Medical Officer for England, the 15th occupant of the post since it was established in 1855.[1][2] As such he was principal advisor to the United Kingdom Government on health matters and one of the most senior officials in the National Health Service (NHS).

In the 2002 New Year Honours, Liam Donaldson received a knighthood in recognition of his achievements in health and health care.[3]

It was announced in December 2009 that Sir Liam planned to retire from the post of Chief Medical Officer in May 2010, although he said that, if the influenza pandemic should unexpectedly worsen, he would have postponed his retirement.[1] On 1 July 2010 he was appointed the Chairman of the Independent Monitoring Board overseeing the polio eradication initiative coordinated by the World Health Organization.[4]


Donaldson qualified in medicine from the University of Bristol in 1972,[5] and he did his two six-month pre-registration house jobs at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.[6] He graduated with an MSc in anatomy from the Birmingham University in 1976.[7]

Donaldson was appointed as Chief Medical Officer in 1998. Between 1994 and 1998 he was Regional Director for the NHS Region of Northern and Yorkshire, and prior to that Regional Medical Officer and Regional Director of Public Health for the Northern Regional Health Authority. He began his career as a surgeon before training in public health.

Academic and other posts[edit]

Donaldson is Visiting Professor in the University of Leicester's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and also holds an honorary Chair of Applied Epidemiology at Newcastle University. On 1 August 2009 Donaldson became Chancellor of Newcastle University, replacing Lord Patten, who stood down after 10 years in office.[8]

He is also Chair of the World Alliance for Patient Safety, which was established by the Director-General of the World Health Organization in October 2004.[9]


As a result of his reports as Chief Medical Officer, Donaldson has had a marked effect on policy and legislation in a wide range of areas including stem cell research, quality and safety of health care, infectious disease control, patient empowerment, clinical performance, temperance legislation, medical regulation, and organ and tissue retention.[10]

Donaldson has degrees from:

He has also been awarded honorary Doctorates by:

Donaldson is:

Other honours include:

Modernising Medical Careers[edit]

Sir Liam was involved in devising the Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) system and the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS). This has been very controversial since its inception, with officials from the DH proclaiming success although it has been outrightly rejected by a large group of trainees and consultants.[26] It champions competence rather than excellence and substantially reduces the length of the training programme required to become a consultant.[27] In an unprecedented demonstration against this system, around 12,000 junior doctors marched against MMC and the associated MTAS in March 2007.[28] Subsequently, Professor Alan Crockard the National Director of MMC resigned stating that the project had 'lacked clear leadership from the top for a very long time'.[29] His colleague Professor Shelley Heard has also resigned. The BMA[30][31] and senior doctors[32] have called repeatedly for his resignation in this matter.

Britain's drinking problem[edit]

In March 2009, to combat what he referred to as the country's drinking problem or 'passive drinking', Donaldson recommended setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol at 50p and tightening licensing laws. Despite Prime Minister Gordon Brown's opposition to the move, Donaldson said he would continue to push his case, just as he had with the successful ban on smoking in public places.[33]


Sir Liam angered civil liberties campaigners, GPs, and the BMA's spokesman for IT in December 2006 by recommending that GPs should forward letters from patients, requesting that personal medical data not be uploaded to the Spine centralised NHS database, to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt[34][35]


Liam Donaldson is co-author of a standard text book of public health,[36] a history of the Chief Medical Officer of England[37] and over 130 papers in peer review journals.[1] He has also written a foreword for a book on clinical audit.[38]

In his role as Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam has produced a number of major reports, including:

  • Supporting doctors, protecting patients (1999)[39]
  • Stem cell research: Medical progress with responsibility (2000)[40]
  • An organisation with a memory (2000)[41]
  • The expert patient: a new approach to chronic disease management for the 21st century (2001)[42]
  • The removal, retention and use of human organs and tissue from post-mortem examination (2001)[43]
  • Getting ahead of the curve: a strategy for combating infectious diseases (2002)[44]
  • At least five a week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health (2004)[45]
  • Good doctors, safer patients: Proposals to strengthen the system to assure and improve the performance of doctors and to protect the safety of patients (2006)[46]
  • Safety first (2006)[47]
  • Bearing good witness: Proposals for reforming the delivery of medical expert evidence in family law cases (2007)[48]

His papers are now archived as one of the special collections of Newcastle University.[49]


  1. ^ a b c d "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  2. ^ "Alumni - University of Birmingham" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  3. ^ "Professor Sir Liam Donaldson MSc". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  4. ^ "Independent Monitoring Board". Retrieved 29 May 2014. 
  5. ^ "Professor Sir Liam Donaldson (MBChB 1972, Honorary MD 1999)". University of Bristol. 6 May 2009. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  6. ^ Hooke, Rachel (7 April 2007). "15 minutes with... The chief medical officer". BMJ Careers. BMJ Publishing Group. 335: gp58. ISSN 1752-8526. Retrieved 7 December 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c "Sir Liam Donaldson". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  8. ^ "Sir Liam Donaldson to be Newcastle University Chancellor". The Journal. 25 June 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2009. 
  9. ^ "WHO | WHO Patient Safety Secretariat". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ "The University Of Bristol". 2013-11-29. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  12. ^ "Administration: Chief Medical Officer to Visit Pioneering Project". 2000-09-27. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2008. 
  14. ^ "Bristol University | About the University | Governance and senior staff". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  15. ^ Rachel Tunstall, Computer Centre ( (2002-05-24). "E-Bulletin: University of Leicester". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2008. 
  17. ^ (PDF)!f25%20honorary%20graduates%20of%20the.pdf. Retrieved 16 April 2008.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 April 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2008. 
  19. ^ "University of York honours 10 - News and events, The University of York". 2004-07-02. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  20. ^ [2][dead link]
  21. ^ "De Montfort University - Leicester, UK". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  22. ^ "Honorary Doctorates". 2016-02-11. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 May 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2008. 
  24. ^ [3][dead link]
  25. ^ "WHO | Picker Institute: Top honours awarded to Sir Liam Donaldson". 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 March 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2009. 
  27. ^ "Specialty Training | This website aims to support doctors in applying for specialty training posts in the NHS in the United Kingdom, and to provide information on changes to the recruitment and training process". Archived from the original on 5 September 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
  28. ^ "Health | Junior doctors protest over jobs". BBC News. 2007-03-17. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  29. ^ "News - Latest breaking UK news". Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  30. ^ Smith, Rebecca (9 August 2007). "Sir Liam Donaldson must resign, says BMA". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  31. ^ Zosia Kmietowicz (2007-06-28). "Doctors call for England's chief medical officer to resign over "NHS in crisis"". The BMJ. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  32. ^ "Junior doctors". The Times. London. 28 May 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  33. ^ Smith, Rebecca (2009-03-16). "'Passive drinking' is blighting the nation, Sir Liam Donaldson warns". Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  34. ^ John Carvel, social affairs editor. "GPs angered by call to reveal names of NHS database rebels | Society | The Guardian". Retrieved 2016-03-29. 
  35. ^ [4]
  36. ^ Donaldson, Liam; Donaldson, R J (2000). Essential Public Health. Radcliffe. ISBN 1-900603-87-X. 
  37. ^ Donaldson, Liam; Sheard, Sally (2005). The Nation's Doctor. Radcliffe. ISBN 1-84619-001-0. 
  38. ^ Ghosh, Robert, ed. (2009). Clinical Audit for Doctors. Nottingham: Developmedica. ISBN 978-1-906839-01-7. 
  39. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 November 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  40. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  41. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  42. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 November 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  43. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  44. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 November 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  45. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 November 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  46. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 November 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  47. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 November 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  48. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  49. ^ [5][dead link]

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Kenneth Calman
Chief Medical Officer for Her Majesty's Government
Succeeded by
Sally Davies
Academic offices
Preceded by
Lord Patten of Barnes
Chancellor of Newcastle University
Succeeded by