Editorials

The changing role of the chief medical officer for England

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j1545 (Published 27 March 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j1545
  1. Martin McKee, professor of European Public Health
  1. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1H 9SH, UK
  1. Martin.McKee{at}lshtm.ac.uk

CMOs today must undertake a careful balancing act

Every six months the chief medical officers (CMO) from each EU member state meet to discuss emerging public health issues. For more 40 years, the occupant of the British seat, the CMO for England, has been a valued contributor. If Theresa May has her way, and the United Kingdom actually manages to leave the EU, by 2019 that seat will be vacated. This will be a great loss to Europe, given the expertise that successive CMOs have brought, but even more so for the UK, which will be excluded from important discussions on policies that will, despite Brexit, inevitably have consequences for this country. Yet, this is only the latest change in a role that has continually been evolving since it was created in 1855.1 The world has changed enormously. Has the role of CMO managed to keep pace?

Before answering this question, a few points should be clarified. First, there is no internationally agreed definition of a CMO. Only a few of those attending the EU meetings actually have the …

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