My career has been spent studying health care, helping students understand how to improve its quality, and advising national policymakers. I’ve been motivated by the desire to enhance public understanding of health, disease and health care. This started in the 1980s when I was one of the main authors of eight popular Open University books, Health & Disease. It continued in 2006 with Walking London’s Medical History which, through seven walks, I revealed how health care policies in England developed.
My key aim has always been to reveal the challenges and uncertainties we face. Alongside writing books and teaching thousands of post-graduate students from all around the world, my research focused on strengthening the voice and influence of patients and developing the accountability of professionals, managers and policy-makers, for which I was knighted in 2019.
Throughout, I’ve been drawn to history and how vital it is that we understand the past if we’re to successfully shape the future. Unlike much scientific research, delving into historical records often leaves large areas of blank canvas where only our imagination can make sense of what happened. After a career of non-fiction publishing, I’ve found the possibilities offered by fiction writing exhilarating and liberating. It’s the final step on my journey to try and increase the public understanding of health care.
Living in London and Herne Bay with my wife Pippa and two black cats, I continue to enjoy the privilege of teaching at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and contributing to current discussions and debates about health and care services in England.