I have had the privilege to hold several posts in my professional life that give me unique insights into the circumstance of children, childhood and child health internationally.
My career in medicine began at Guy’s Hospital in London, then undertaking research in the University of Oxford, England to achieve a Doctorate of Philosophy (D.Phil) in the mechanism of insulin secretion. I decided to become a children’s physician and after basic clinical experience in hospitals in Oxford, I gained specialist training in my chosen speciality of paediatric endocrinology (the study of the role of hormones in health and illness) in the University Children’s Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland.
I returned to Oxford as a Clinical Lecturer in Paediatrics before being promoted to University Lecturer, Fellow of Green College, University of Oxford and honorary consultant paediatrician. I developed a research group studying how hormones are important in allowing babies to adapt to life after birth, including how to improve pain relief in critically ill newborn infants.
I was then appointed James Spence Professor of Child Health and subsequently the Head of the School of Clinical Medical Sciences in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. I led the development of the scientific standing of the Department of Child Health, with wide ranging innovations including further studies on the endocrine control of blood sugar concentrations to the influences of poverty and deprivation on the prevention and management of serious head injury in children.
I was invited to the Nuffield Chair of Child Health at the Institute of Child Health (ICH), University College London, and Board level executive Director of Clinical Research and Development at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, London. I led the transformation of the joint institution’s processes for managing and organising research, and with the Dean of the Institute, the joint institution’s strategy allowing it to become one of the top four children’s hospitals world wide for its research in improving the lives of children.
Having challenged the then Government for its failure to provide focus in its policies for children and their health, I was invited to be the first Chairman of a new Children’s Taskforce in the Department of Health before being appointed the first National Clinical Director for Children. This position arose out of the scandal exposed by Sir Ian Kennedy’s Inquiry into the poor outcomes of children after heart surgery, being appointed by the Secretary of State to be responsible for defining the first-ever comprehensive national standards for children’s health care. These were published as the National Service Framework for Children and Maternity Services in 2004. I made over 400 visits across the country to see for myself the circumstances of children in the health care system.
In 2005 I was appointed in a process that involved the participation of children to be the first Children’s Commissioner for England, a post created by Parliament to be the independent voice for the 11 million children and young people of England. In setting up the new organisation, my colleagues and I explored new ways of engaging with children and young people, especially those most invisible, vulnerable and voiceless in society.
Through the power given to me by Parliament to enter premises where children are cared for, our work programme exposed to public and political view serious injustices and poor practices in a wide range of circumstances, including the care of children in prison, the plight of refugee children seeking asylum, those with serious mental and emotional ill health and the inadequate protection of civil rights and freedoms under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
I stood down from my five years of tenure in 2010 to begin my ‘4th career’ as an independent consultant on children, childhood and child health. I divide my time between pro-bono activities supporting leading non-government organisations, and commissioned work with governments and organisations world wide. I am privileged to be invited to speak at events and congresses in the UK and internationally, and delight in challenging dogma, provoking discussion and generating actions leading to change for children. I should be pleased to be contacted to explore with you how my insights and knowledge can be used to promote the best interests of children, young people and families in a wide range of settings and circumstances.