'An oracle would be handy': Chief medical officer Chris Whitty's New Year's wish

2020 may have been a year like no other, but 2021 was a chip off the old block and relentless from day one. The government's top medic tells us about 12 more months of dealing with Covid while pushing ahead with new challenges
Photo: Geopix / Alamy Stock Photo

By Civil Service World

17 Dec 2021


What was your highlight of 2021?

The remarkable interaction between volunteers, many of them civil servants, and healthcare professional public servants to combat Covid-19. 

It would have been impossible to achieve the key public health interventions without them, from testing and protecting the most vulnerable to the extraordinary vaccination campaign. When people look back on this period, I think they will be very proud of the work they did and justifiably so.

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2021?

By relying on teams. The immediate team around me, who have been outstanding; the wider team of policy and operational professionals across government; and the collective leadership of the medical profession and other health professionals. The ability of people to pull together in a major crisis is remarkable, and technical skills you did not realise people have emerge.

"It would have been impossible to achieve the key public health interventions without volunteers"

What is your number one priority for 2022?

To try to address some of the major non-Covid public health challenges that have built up during the last two years whilst we have been tackling the pandemic. Covid-19 direct mortality has not gone away and will be with us indefinitely. The indirect effects of Covid, ranging from the backlog of cancelled operations due to Covid, through missed screening visits for heart disease, to the classroom hours that children have lost, will take many years to work through.

Which historical, mythical or contemporary figure would you most like to join you for a New Year’s Eve celebration?

A Delphic oracle or some other mythical creature able to give an accurate prediction of the future would be very handy. Preferably a cheerful one. 

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