Frank Dobson was health secretary when I became chair of the general practitioners committee of the British Medical Association. Though constrained by the incoming Labour government’s adherence to existing Tory public spending limits, Frank introduced two important and enduring concepts: the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), to define evidence-based standards for healthcare, and the Commission for Health Improvement (which has since evolved into the Care Quality Commission), to monitor and assess compliance with national standards.
Frank was a man of principle, committed to improving the public good and to social justice. He was a people person, and he always had a twinkle in his eye and a mordant, sometimes wicked sense of humour. After the death of Robin Cook in 2005, I wrote to thank him for his moving tribute, and he and his wife, Janet, invited me and my wife, Ann, to lunch at the Houses of Parliament. This unexpected gesture of kindness was entirely typical, and I will miss him immensely.