Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam to leave role as England's deputy chief medical officer

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Jonathan Van Tam during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).  Matt Dunham/PA  26-Feb-2021
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Jonathan Van Tam has been a familiar face at Downing Street Covid briefings. Credit: PA

England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam will be leaving his role.

The government health adviser has appeared in Downing Street briefings throughout the last two years, providing advice and expert insight, including easy-to-understand analogies, into the pandemic.

Sir Jonathan - also known as JVT - will take up a new role as the Pro-Vice Chancellor for the faculty of medicine and health sciences at University of Nottingham in May.

Back in 2020, when the Covid pandemic first began, the government gave a coronavirus press conference every day, with Prof Sir Jonathan a regular face at the updates. Here are some of his best analogies, from the early days of the outbreak

He had been on secondment to the Department of Health from the University of Nottingham for the last few years and will continue to work for the government until the end of March.

He said: “My time as DCMO has been the most challenging of my professional career, especially the Covid response.

“We all wish Covid had never happened. Notwithstanding, it has been the greatest privilege of my professional career to have served the people of the UK during this time.

“I want to pay tribute to (chief medical officer) Professor Chris Whitty, the CMO team, my fellow scientists, public health professionals and clinicians whose support, wisdom and energy has been inspiring.

“There are countless numbers who work behind the scenes – all of whom have an unrelenting commitment to help and support the British public. It has been an honour to work with them all.”

The public health expert received a knighthood in the 2022 New Year's Honours list in recognition of his work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Boris Johnson thanked Sir Jonathan Van-Tam for his “invaluable” advice.

The prime minister said: “I would like to thank Jonathan Van-Tam for his extraordinary contribution to our country and his invaluable advice throughout the pandemic. Wishing him the very best for the future.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement: “JVT’s one-of-a-kind approach to communicating science over the past two years has no doubt played a vital role in protecting and reassuring the nation, and made him a national treasure.

“I pay tribute to his relentless work ethic, sense of public duty and leading role in our incredible vaccination programme – on behalf of DHSC (Department for Health and Social Care) I wish him the best of luck on his return to the University of Nottingham.”

Mr Javid also tweeted: “It has been an honour to work with JVT and I am hugely grateful for his advice & the vital role he has played in our vaccination programme. I wish him all the best for the future at @UniofNottingham @UoNFacultyMHS.”

Prof Whitty said: “Professor Van-Tam has been an outstanding DCMO and public servant.

“I am profoundly thankful for his steadfast support, advice, leadership and commitment. His communication of public health advice and science has been remarkable.”

University of Nottingham Vice-Chancellor, Professor Shearer West, said the institution was “incredibly proud” of Sir Jonathan.

“I am delighted that Jonathan is returning to Nottingham to join our executive team and lead our renowned faculty of medicine and health sciences as its next Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

“His academic and leadership expertise is second to none, and the integrity that he has demonstrated in his government role is fully aligned to our values.”

Before joining the government, Sir Jonathan was Professor of Health Protection in the University of Nottingham's School of Medicine

He is a specialist in influenza, including its epidemiology, transmission, vaccinology and pandemic preparedness.

As deputy chief medical officer, Sir Jonathan played important roles in the domestic outbreaks of MERS and Monkeypox, the 2017/18 influenza season and the response to the Novichok attacks and the Covid-19 pandemic where he worked on the Vaccine Taskforce and supported the development of treatments.

He has spent 35 years in clinical and academic practice - 26 of them were spent teaching and leading at the University of Nottingham.