Sir Jonathan Van-Tam: Why England's deputy chief medical officer is leaving and when he'll step down

He has been a regular part of government meetings on the coronavirus since the pandemic began, but Sir Jonathan Van-Tam has decided to make time for his vitally important job.

The highly experienced scientist, who became known to millions for speaking with metaphors at government meetings on Covid-19, will leave England in the next few months as deputy chief medical officer.

Read more: When did Boris Johnson have Covid? Key dates on which Prime Minister tested positive for coronavirus

A replacement has yet to be announced, but Sir Jonathan still has some time as he prepares to step down from his role as adviser to government ministers.

So who is Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, why is he leaving England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer and when will he step down from that position? Here’s what we know.

Who is Sir Jonathan Van-Tam and why is he leaving England as Deputy Chief Medical Officer?

Sir Jonathan Van-Tam is England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer and has held the position since 2017.

He joined the Department of Health and Social Care on secondment from the University of Nottingham but is set to return to the institution to take up the role of Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

He is best known to the public for appearing at the government’s coronavirus press conferences at Downing Street, where he often used metaphor to make his points.

These include: “The train has now braked safely, it has now stopped in the station and the doors have opened.”

And: “This is the second penalty that went into the net, so we’re starting to feel better.”

Sir Jonathan also helped with the UK’s coronavirus vaccine program and assisted scientists and government ministers in developing treatments for the disease.

Although Sir Jonathan has also been at the forefront of other health incidents. This includes responding to the domestic monkeypox outbreak, how Britain can combat the 2017/18 flu season and he helped respond to the Novichok attacks.

He has a wife and three children and lives in a village near Boston, Lincolnshire. Sir Jonathan was knighted by the Queen in the recent New Year’s Honors List.

When will Sir Jonathan Van-Tam leave his position and what has been the reaction to his imminent departure?

Sir Jonathan Van-Tam will leave England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the end of March 2022.

Of his exit, he said: “My time as a DCMO has been the most challenging of my professional career, particularly the COVID response. We all wish COVID had never happened. That notwithstanding, the greatest privilege of my career has been to have ministered to the people of the UK during this time.

“I would like to pay tribute to Professor Chris Whitty, the CMO team, my colleagues, public health professionals and clinicians whose support, wisdom and energy have been inspirational. There are countless people working behind the scenes – all with a relentless commitment to helping and supporting the British public. It was an honor to work with all of them.

“I’ll be working until the end of March and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”

Statements were released by those who worked with Sir Jonathan.

Health and Welfare Secretary Sajid Javid said: “It has been an honor to work alongside Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam and I am very grateful for his advice and guidance since becoming Health and Welfare Secretary.

“JVT’s unique approach to science education over the past two years has undoubtedly played a crucial role in protecting and reassuring the nation, making it a national treasure.

“I salute his tireless work ethic, public commitment and leadership in our incredible immunization program – on behalf of the DHSC, I wish him the best of luck in his return to the University of Nottingham.”

Professor Chris Whitty, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, said: “Professor Van-Tam was an outstanding DCMO and civil servant. I am deeply grateful for his unwavering support, advice, guidance and dedication. His imparting of public health advice and science was remarkable.”

University of Nottingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West said: “All of us at the University are incredibly proud of the work of Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam as Deputy Chief Medical Officer, where he has played an important role in leading the nation has the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am delighted that Jonathan is returning to Nottingham to join our leadership team and lead our renowned Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences as the next Vice-Chancellor. His academic and leadership skills are second to none and the integrity he has demonstrated in his government role is fully consistent with our values.

“I know he will take our university’s reputation for excellence in medicine and health sciences to new heights.”


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