Whitty named next chief medical officer

Written by Beckie Smith on 7 June 2019 in News
News

Public health professor has been a chief scientific adviser to government departments for a decade

Chris Whitty, chief scientific adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care, will be England's next chief medical officer, the department has announced.

Whitty, who is also a professor of public and international health and a practising doctor, will take over from outgoing chief scientific adviser Dame Sally Davies when she steps down in October. He is an epidemiologist – a scientist who specialises in diseases within populations of people.

As “the nation’s doctor”, Whitty will provide independent and evidence-based advice to the ministers and officials on medical issues, and support the development of government policy that promotes public health and wellbeing. He will also lead national and international responses to public health emergencies.


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In his role as chief scientific adviser, Whitty has acted as deputy chief medical officer as well as providing public health and clinical advice to DHSC and ministers.

He has also provided scientific advice across government in crisis situations such as the Salisbury attacks last year and oversees the department’s research and development, including the National Institute for Health Research, which facilitates NHS research and is the largest clinical research funder in Europe.

Whitty joined the civil service in 2009 as chief scientific adviser to the Department for International Development. In 2015 he moved to the health department, where he also spent stints as the government’s deputy chief scientific adviser and then interim government CSA alongside this role.

Outside government, Whitty is a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an NHS consultant physician in acute medicine and infectious diseases at University College London Hospitals.

"It is a huge honour to be given the opportunity as chief medical officer for England to be able to support colleagues in public health, the NHS and social care around the country to improve the health of the nation," Whitty said. "I look forward to working within DHSC and across Whitehall to support the government in leading the nation’s health and care."

Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at DHSC, said Whitty was doing “an excellent job as chief scientific adviser and will bring to his new role a wealth of relevant experience from his previous roles in public health.”

Government chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said Whitty was "an outstanding clinician, scientist and leader, and has dedicated his life to improving outcomes for patients".

When it advertised for the £200,000-a-year job in March, DHSC said the next chief medical officer must be medically qualified, with a “considerable national profile”. Davies, who has been in the permanent secretary-level role for nine years, is a consultant haematologist.

“As ‘the nation’s doctor’, the CMO will need to be an outstanding clinical leader, who commands the confidence of ministers, the public and the medical profession,” the job advert said.

As chief medical officer, Davies has driven national and international efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance, and pushed for the government to take cross-departmental action on air pollution and to legalise cannabis products for medicinal use.

After stepping down Davies will become master of Trinity College, Cambridge University.

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets Beckie__Smith.

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