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26 November, 2018

News > Obituary of our Patron, Sir Donald Irvine

We were deeply saddened to learn that Sir Donald Irvine, our Patron, passed away on Monday 19th November 2018 at 83 years old.

Sir Donald has been a long-standing and influential advocate for person centred care, and has a long history with Picker. He was Patron of Picker, and Chair of our Board of trustees from 2001-2013. He also served as Trustee of the US Picker Institute in Boston, Massachusetts.

Stuart Bell, Chair of Picker’s Board of Trustees, said:

“As Chair, Sir Donald oversaw Picker’s growth from a fledgling organisation with a handful of employees into the internationally respected organisation that it remains today. His personal commitment, influence, and dedication to Picker’s cause of person centred care played a vital role in this growth and we are in his debt.

Sir Donald leaves an impressive legacy: as well as chairing Picker, he was a President of the GMC and was a major innovator in promoting medical education and regulation. His influence will continue to resonate in healthcare for many, many years, and patients and the public will undoubtedly continue to benefit from his actions and achievements.”

Chris Graham, Picker’s CEO, added:

“From a personal perspective, I found him to be an inspiring person who was passionate about our cause and always keen to offer assistance in any way he could. Having first met Sir Donald early in my career, I remember being struck by his passion, his insight, and by his openness. He will be missed, and our thoughts are with Lady Cynthia Irvine and Sir Donald’s wider family.”

A lifetime dedicated to person centred care

A general practitioner, Sir Donald began his career in 1958 in the mining village of Ashington, Northumberland, in the UK. He first worked in his father’s practice and then, later, as a partner in one of the first multi-disciplinary teaching family practices in the UK.

For approximately 20 years, Sir Donald served as a regional adviser for general practice at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne where he introduced clinical standard setting and medical audits based on peer review, and served as Council Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners from 1983 to 1985.

After chairing the General Medical Council (GMC) Professional Standards Committee, Sir Donald served as GMC President, one of the most esteemed medical posts in the UK. Known as the “Doctors’ Judge,” Sir Donald was the first ever general practitioner to serve as GMC President. His role included overseeing the official register of medical practitioners in the UK, designing the current system for ongoing validation and revalidation of physician competence, and establishing the standards for the UK’s medical schools in order to protect, promote, and maintain the health and safety of the public.

Sir Donald led the development of “Good Medical Practice,” the national code of professional practice that remains as the basis for medical practice and education in the UK and commonwealth countries.

Sir Donald has played a pivotal role in the advancement of person centred care through his role as Chairman of Picker Institute Europe and membership of the Board of Trustees of the Picker Institute in the United States. As a result of his work, he was awarded the Picker Award for Excellence in the Advancement of Patient-Centered Care in 2004.

As Patron of Picker, Sir Donald continued to support Picker’s internationally recognised quality improvement framework and quality measurement throughout the UK and worldwide.

Sir Donald has lectured and written extensively on the topics of general practice, medical education, and medical professionalism. He received honorary degrees from six UK universities and honorary fellowships from five medical royal colleges, as well as an Honorary Professor at the School of Health at the University of Durham. Appointed as Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1986, he was knighted in 1994 in recognition of his service to medicine and medical ethics.

In his later years Sir Donald lived in Northumberland with his wife, Lady Cynthia, and continued to take a strong interest in improving the quality of health care. He spoke with passion about the positive impact of involving patients in their care, and in his recent memoir Medical Professionalism and the public interest: Reflections on a life in medicine he set down the challenge for the medical profession to continue to assure standards of patient care.


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