Chief Medical Officer (United Kingdom)

In the United Kingdom, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) is the most senior government advisor on health matters. There are four CMOs in the United Kingdom who are appointed to advise their respective governments: Her Majesty's Government (CMO for England and medical adviser to the United Kingdom government), the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government[1] and the Welsh Government. Each CMO is assisted by one or more Deputy Chief Medical Officers, and are complemented by a Chief Nursing Officer.

In England, the CMO is a civil servant (Permanent Secretary level) in the Department of Health and Social Care, and head of the medical civil service and public health. The Republic of Ireland has a similar officer.

The Chief Medical Officer is a qualified medical doctor whose medical speciality traditionally was public health medicine, and whose work focused on the health of communities rather than health of individuals. More recently some appointees have been senior clinicians without training in public health medicine. In the UK, the CMO is one of the chief professional officers who advise the government in their respective health and social care disciplines.[2]

The nearest equivalents US terms are Surgeon General or Assistant Secretary for Health. The term Surgeon General is also a used in the British Armed Forces for the head of medical services. In non-government organisations, companies or bodies such as policing, chief medical officer may refer to a senior medical post in the organisation.

Chief Medical Officers for Her Majesty's Government

The historic post was created in Victorian times to help to prevent cholera and other epidemics.[3] In 1969 the post of Chief Medical Officer for Wales was created, and prior to this both England and Wales were covered by the post of Chief Medical Officer of England and Wales.[4]

Chief Medical Officers for Scotland

Through various reorganisations, the CMOs for Scotland has been the chief medical officer in the Local Government Board for Scotland, Scottish Board of Health, Department of Health for Scotland, the Scottish Home and Health Department, the Scottish Executive Health Department and now the Scottish Government:[4]

Chief Medical Officers for Wales

The Welsh post[14] was created in 1969, prior to this there was one post for both England and Wales, the Chief Medical Officer for England and Wales.[4]

  • Dr Richard Bevan (1969–1977)
  • Prof. Gareth Crompton (1978–1989)
  • Dame Deirdre Hine (1990–1997)
  • Dr Ruth Hall (1997–2005)
  • Dr David Salter (acting from July 2005 to April 2006)
  • Dr Tony Jewell (18 April 2006 – 2012)
  • Dr Ruth Hussey (2012–2016)
  • Dr Chris Jones (acting; from March to July 2016)
  • Dr Frank Atherton (1 August 2016 – Present)

Chief Medical Officers for Northern Ireland

  • Dr William Richard Dawson (1922-1929) Chief Medical Officer of Ministry of Home Affairs, Northern Ireland.[15]
  • Dr Thomas Terence Baird (1973-1978)[16]
  • Dr Bob Weir (1978-1986)[17]
  • Dr James McKenna (1988-1995)[16]
  • Dr Henrietta Campbell (1995–2006)
  • Dr Michael McBride (from 2006)

See also


  1. "Chief Medical Officer (CMO)". Scottish Government. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  2. "Chief professional officers". Department of Health (UK). Archived from the original on 7 January 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  3. "Chief Medical Officer: biography". Department of Health, United Kingdom. 2007. Retrieved 15 August 2007.
  4. Warren, Michael D. "A Chronology of State Medicine, Public Health, Welfare and Related Services in Britain 1066–1999" (PDF). Royal College of Physicians of England. pp. 302–304. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  5. "The Senior Team". Department of Health. 12 March 2010.
  6. "Professor Dame Sally C Davies". Department of Health. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  7. "New chief medical officer appointed". GOV.UK. Department of Health and Social Care. 14 June 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  8. "James B Russell". Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  9. "James Burn Russell". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  10. "Public health administration in Glasgow; a memorial volume of the writings of James Burn Russell. Edited by A.K. Chalmers". Hathi Trust Digital Library. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  11. "EDNA ROBERTSON, Glasgow's Doctor: James Burn Russell, 1837-1904 (review)". Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  12. "Glasgow's Doctor: James Burn Russell, MOH, 1837-1904 (review)". Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
  13. "Sir Harry Burns". The Scottish Government, Health & Community Care. 23 January 2014. Archived from the original on 19 June 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  14. "Health and social care: Chief Medical Officer". Welsh Government. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  15. Western Daily Press, Bristol, 30 October 1950. Bath Wills: British Medical Journal 1950 Obituary.
  16. "Four Decades of Public Health : Northern Ireland's health boards 1973 – 2009" (PDF). Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  17. "The Dictionary of Ulster Biography". Retrieved 20 April 2016.
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