Sir Harry Burns to step down as chief medical officer

Sir Harry Burns
Image caption Sir Harry is taking up his new post at the University of Strathclyde in April

Scotland's top doctor is quitting his post to concentrate on fighting health inequalities, the Scottish government has announced.

Sir Harry Burns is standing down as chief medical officer to become professor of global public health at Strathclyde University.

He has said health inequality is the biggest issue facing Scotland.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said Sir Harry had made a "significant contribution".

Sir Harry, a former surgeon who became chief medical officer in 2005, has played a key role in shaping health in Scotland, including leading the response to the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

He said: "It has been a pleasure working with the Scottish government over the past eight years, but it is time to hand over to a new chief medical officer.

"I have enjoyed the challenges over the past eight years, and I have had the opportunity to do a lot of work around health inequalities.

"I am looking forward to being able to develop my interest in health inequalities further, and continuing to contribute towards building a better public health landscape."

After graduating from Glasgow University in 1977, Sir Harry spent 15 years as a surgeon, eventually becoming consultant surgeon at the city's royal infirmary.

He went on to become director of public health for Greater Glasgow health board in 1993, until his appointment as Scotland's chief medical officer.

Sir Harry, who was knighted in 2011, has become well know for highlighting the links between poverty and poor health.

In 2012, he told the Scottish Parliament's audit committee: "Health inequalities are the biggest issue facing Scotland just now, because not only are health inequalities a problem but [they] are really a manifestation of social inequality.

"Social complexity, social disintegration drives things like criminality, it drives things like poor educational attainment, it drives a whole range of things that we would want to see different in Scotland.

"The more attention we can get paid to the drivers of that situation, the better."

Last year, Sir Harry suggested the decline of heavy industry was partly responsible for poor health in Scotland, saying at the time: "A void appeared in men's lives and the void was filled with drink, drugs and fighting."

Paying tribute, Mr Neil said: "Sir Harry has brought a renewed focus to the issue of health inequalities within Scotland, and I am delighted that his new role will enable him to continue his focus in this area."

Sir Harry will start his new post in April and the Scottish government is currently working on appointing a new chief medical officer.

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