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NHS Medical Director
National Health Service

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Bruce Keogh

00:02 My name’s Bruce Keogh I’m the Medical Director of the National Health Service. Well that involves really trying to provide a medical, clinical compass in the decision making policy development process of the NHS and government.

00:20 I’ve been a practicing clinician, a university professor, I held a number of leadership roles in cardiac surgery which is my specialty. I decided I wanted to become a doctor at the age of 4 or 5 because, I encountered some orthopaedic surgeons under some rather unfortunate circumstances. I fell out of a tree, broke an arm quite badly, I also had an uncle who was a very good general practitioner who I admired enormously. But I was being brought up as a kid in what’s now Zimbabwe and I was taken by reports in the newspapers in the late 1960s of the first human heart transplant which was performed in Cape Town. And it was that that made me think that I’d quite like to be a heart surgeon.

01:09 One of the defining moments of my life though was my father had been very ill and he was, he had just come out of hospital and in Africa, conversations quite often happen underneath a big tree and I remember going with him out into the garden and I told him that I’d failed my A levels quite spectacularly actually I was interested in sport and girls and less interested in academic endeavour, I don’t think that distinguishes me from any other male teenager.

01:43 And he just looked at me and he said, you want to be a doctor he said, what are you going to do now and that’s when I realised that there was a defining moment at which point my life had become my responsibility and it was no longer his.

01:56 Late 1960s early 1970s it became clear to me that there wasn’t a future there so I left with a rucksack and 250 quid and arrived in England on first of September 1973. At that time Britain and what was then Rhodesia weren’t getting on very well and my money was frozen, I’d got to a stage where I applied for 2 jobs where I was rejected because they thought I wasn’t fit enough and eventually it was British Steel actually and I went there, and I failed the medical, I said to the doctor look I’m in bad shape, I can’t, you know I haven’t got enough money I’m not eating properly all that sort of thing. He did a deal with the management they gave me a week’s pay in advance and told me not to come for a week, go off and get some food and you know that act of kindness was very important to me.

02:49 I dipped pipes in tar with a bunch of other immigrants.

02:57 I visited pretty well every medical school I think with the exception of Birmingham and Cardiff in the UK trying to get a place most of them told me not to bother applying. A lot of the time was spent thinking what next, I was determined to get there eventually but, with more and more rejections it became more and more worrying and I eventually got in through clearing and that was such a narrow escape for me not getting to do what I really wanted to do that it made me quite focused on pursuing my career quite vigorously.

03:34 Mentioned I failed my A levels I also had the privilege of failing my surgical exams, twice I think.

03:43 When you’re doing something that you love, that you really enjoy it’s not a burden. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, it’s fantastic. Great colleagues, great opportunity, love it.


Professor Sir Bruce Keogh is the Medical Director of the National Health Service. He came to England from Zimbabwe to pursue his dream of becoming a heart surgeon. “When you’re doing something that you love, that you really enjoy it’s not a burden. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, it’s fantastic”.

More information about Health services and public health managers and directors

average salary

The UK average salary is £28,758

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

31%  male 
69%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future Employment

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? Managers and directors in this unit group plan, organise, direct and co-ordinate the resources and activities of health care providers and purchasers at both district and unit levels.
Entrants require a degree or equivalent qualification, a professional qualification and/or relevant experience. Off- and on-the-job training is provided through management training schemes. The nature of schemes varies between regions and occupational areas.
  • Implements policies of the board, ensures statutory procedures are followed, with particular emphasis on patient safety and the management of risk;
  • Liaises with health care professionals to determine short and long-term needs and how to meet these objectives within budgetary constraints;
  • Oversees the day-to-day management of the unit or service and provides leadership to staff;
  • Uses statistical information to monitor performance and assist with planning;
  • Negotiates and manages contracts with providers and purchasers of health care services;
  • Manages staff, including recruitment, appraisal and development;
  • Monitors and reports upon the effectiveness of services with a view to improving the efficiency of health care provision;
  • Coordinates the promotion of public health and wellbeing in the actions and policies of public agencies and their social partners;
  • Monitors and reports upon the state of public health and wellbeing.
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