Sir Donald is Patron of Picker. He was chairman of the Board of trustees from 2001-2013 and a trustee of Picker Inc. in Boston Massachusetts. He has been a longstanding advocate of patient-centred health care.
He is Honorary Professor, School of Health in the University of Durham, a Vice President of the Patients’ Association and President of Age UK Northumbria.
Sir Donald was President of the General Medical Council from 1995 to 2001. Modernising professional regulation and promoting ideas about patient-centred professionalism in medicine were the central themes of his Presidency. He was responsible for the initial development of Good Medical Practice, the code of practice that is basis for medical practice, medical education and medical licensure in the UK and several Commonwealth countries today, and for initiating the development of revalidation (relicensure) for British doctors.
Earlier, Sir Donald was a partner in Lintonville Medical Group, one of the first multi-disciplinary teaching general practices in the UK, between 1960 and 1995. He was one of the founders of vocational training for general practice and was involved through the Royal College of General Practitioners in introducing clinical standard setting and medical audit based on peer review.
He has written extensively on medical education and medical ethics, professionalism in medicine, and the assessment of quality in healthcare.