National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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Tributes paid following the death of founding NICE chairman Professor Sir Mike Rawlins

As founding chairman of NICE, Sir Mike led NICE from 1999 to 2013, through its early formative years to its current position as a world leader in health and social care guidance and medicine evaluation.

The founding chairman of NICE, Professor Sir Mike Rawlins, has passed away at the age of 81.

He was appointed chairman designate in November 1998 of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence as it was then known. He led the first meeting of the board the night before NICE formally started operating in April 1999.

He hired Sir Andrew Dillon to become the organisation’s founding chief executive and the pair set about establishing the organisation.

Sir Mike led NICE until 2013, through its early formative years to its current position, as a world leader in health and social care guidance and medicine evaluation.

Speaking to NICE’s internal staff magazine in November 2009, Sir Mike said of his role: “NICE has been the most fascinating, exhilarating, sometimes frustrating, but the most worthwhile part of my professional career. Very few people ever have the opportunity to set up a new organisation and see it along the way for as long as I have, so I am very lucky.”

Dr Sam Roberts, NICE chief executive, said: "I am so sad to hear Sir Mike has died. My deepest sympathies to his family. He was an intellectual great, a kind and generous man who made such a massive contribution to healthcare in this country. He will be hugely missed."

Sharmila Nebhrajani OBE, NICE chairman, said: "I am so saddened to hear of the death of Sir Mike Rawlins, the founding father of NICE. He was a hugely influential figure in the field of medicines and we at NICE are extremely grateful to him. As the current chairman of NICE it really is true that I stand on the shoulders of a giant. We extend our condolences to his family."

Sir Andrew Dillon, founding chief executive of NICE (1999-2020), said: “Mike was warm, wise and great fun to work with. He was an inspirational leader and always loyal and supportive to those around him. He guided and protected NICE throughout his tenure as chair and ensured its survival in its early, vulnerable years. NICE couldn’t have become what it has without him. On a personal note, he gave me the best job of my career, for which I will always be very grateful.”

Professor Gill Leng CBE, former NICE chief executive (2020-2022), said: “Sir Mike Rawlins was a wonderful human being who combined warmth and humanity with a razor-sharp intellect. He had vision, drive and a passion to improve healthcare, always with patients at the centre. He leaves a huge imprint on the history of medicine. It was a privilege to have worked with him.”

Sir David Haslam, NICE chairman (2013-2020) added: “A quite remarkable man. It was such an honour to have known and worked with him. An absolute giant in medicine and healthcare who will be massively missed.”

After standing down from the NICE board, Sir Mike went on to become chairman of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) (2014-2020). He also held roles as the chairman of the Committee on Safety of Medicines (1992-1998), chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (1998-2008), a past president of the Royal Society of Medicine (2012-2014) and chairman of UK Biobank (2012-2019).

He was knighted in the 1999 Queen’s New Year Honours for services to the improvement of patient protection from the side effects of medicines. In 2017 he was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire for services to the safety of medicines, healthcare and innovation after more than three decades at the forefront of innovation, development and leadership in the public health sector.

He held the role as honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and emeritus professor at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

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