My Week: Sir Liam Donaldson

Author: Interview by Gillian Orr

One of my colleagues has just got back from a ministerial summit on swine flu
in Mexico and brought back information from that which we discuss. South
America is in its flu season at the moment. Argentina in particular is
struggling. It can help us to predict what is going to happen in the UK when
we hit our flu season. I chair a board meeting about planning the
reintroduction of revalidation for doctors before going home and speaking to
my son about our ongoing anguish with Newcastle United; we’re at the point
of despair now.


There’s an informal meeting of the whole Department of Health this morning. I
then do what I’ve been doing pretty much every day for the past six to eight
weeks, which is hold meetings and exchange information about swine flu. I
get all the latest information, talk to people who are leading the NHS
response, find out where the hot spots are, see where we are with vaccine
production. There are more meetings before I do an interview with ITN about
tackling obesity. In the evening I go to a dinner at the Royal College of
Physicians. I go home and email my friend about the latest Bob Dylan album.
We’re both big fans and we’re trying to establish where it stands in the
grand pecking order. We’re still not sure.


Now that the number of people being diagnosed with swine flu is so high (about
27,000 cases), we have a meeting about how to collect all the data. We
decide to make a media statement tomorrow so we spend a lot of time on that.
I then go to the National Quality Board, an initiative to improve quality in
the NHS. After that I attend the annual Health and Social Care Awards where
there’s a dinner and ceremony. Michael Parkinson is another one of the
presenters so we compare notes on the 1950s and 60s in Yorkshire.


It’s the big press conference on swine flu today. I run through it before with
Andy Burnham, Secretary of State, to make sure he didn’t have any points he
wanted to raise about it. I have a working dinner with Dame Carol Black, the
chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, in the evening.


I start doing a podcast for doctors. about swine flu. I discuss the
latest figures, comparing what’s happening around the country, the great
pressure the NHS is under, vaccines etc. The vaccine will be available in
the autumn and we’ll be one of the first countries to get it. We’ll get a
few million doses in early September and then running through to Christmas
we’ll have 60 million doses or so. When we hit autumn and winter we’re
expecting a proper epidemic but we’ll be prepared.

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