Dame Sally Davies to step down as chief medical officer

Davies, who set up the National Institute for Health Research and has driven efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance, will step down in September

Photo: Paul Heartfield for CSW

The government’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, will step down at the end of September after nine years in the role, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.

Davies will leave the civil service, which she joined in 2004, to become master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. Davies first joined the civil service in 2004 as director general of research and development for the NHS, where she set up the National Institute for Health Research – the research arm of the health department that manages a research budget of around £1bn a year.

She later played a pivotal role in the establishment of Genomics England, the company set up by DHSC to lead the 100,000 Genomes Project to sequence 100,000 whole human genomes. The company is now supporting a move to embed genome sequencing into mainstream NHS practice, in a bid to better diagnose and treat people with rare diseases.


Previously Davies spent 30 years as a consultant haematologist in the NHS and was the first UK medical practitioner to specialise in sickle cell disease.

During her tenure as CMO, Davies has been a major driving force behind national and international efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance – a role she said she would continue in her next role - and helped lead the government’s response to health emergencies including the Ebola outbreak and Novichok attacks.

In December, Davies wrote for CSW that tackling AMR, as well as implementing the NHS long term plan that was published in January, would remain an important focus for her role in 2019. "The government has the opportunity to continue leading the world on antimicrobial resistance with its new strategy, and we must keep up the momentum on mental health," Daviews wrote in her submission to CSW's 2018 permanent secretaries' roundup.

In a statement announcing her plans to step down, Davies said: “I want to pay tribute to the outstanding clinicians, scientists and public servants who have supported me in this role – men and women who are working tirelessly to improve the health of the nation.

“It has been an honour to be the first female chief medical officer. I have enjoyed it from the start, and I will continue to do so right up until I finish.”

Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill said: “Sally Davies has made an exceptional contribution to public service as the first female chief medical officer, guiding us through many public health challenges.

“Her historic contribution to tackling the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance will earn her the gratitude of people across the world for generations to come. I wish her well in her new role at Trinity College. They are lucky to have her.”

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