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Principal Medical Officer is a senior position in the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Army Medical Corps (India) and the Irish Health Service Executive.[1]

The title was formerly used within the British National Health Service and the health services of former colonies. James McGrigor was appointed Principal Medical Officer of the Portuguese Army during the Peninsular War.[2] A position of Principal Medical Officer in the Crimea was established from 1854 to 1856 for the duration of the Crimean War.[3] Florence Nightingale made suggestions as to the duties of the post.[4]

The position still existed in England[5] and Wales[6] until the 1974 reorganisation. The title is still used in NHS Scotland.[7]

The St John Ambulance in England formerly had a Principal Medical Officer position.[8]

In Australia the position was the senior administrator of the Medical Department of each state from 1895, when it was created as part of the Colonial Secretary's Department, replacing the position of Colonial Surgeon, to 1911. The superintendants of hospitals reported to the Principal Medical Officer.[9] The position still exists within the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.[10]

The term is still used in Namibia.[11]


  1. "Medical Officers, Eligibility Criteria". HSE. 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2019. 
  2. "Commemorative Plaques Record Details". City of Aberdeen. 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2019. 
  3. "Principal Medical Officer in the Crimea". Wellcome Library. 21 May 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2019. 
  4. Nightingale, Florence (1858). "Principal+Medical+Officer"#v=onepage&q="Principal%20Medical%20Officer"&f=false The Crimean War:Notes on the Health of the British Army. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. p. 665. ISBN 9780889204690."Principal+Medical+Officer"#v=onepage&q="Principal%20Medical%20Officer"&f=false. Retrieved 2 June 2019. 
  5. "Rodney Wilkins, formerly Principal Medical Officer, Department of Health and Social Security, Alexander Fleming House, Elephant and Castle, London SEI". Bulletin of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. March 1988. Retrieved 2 June 2019. 
  6. "Welsh Board of Health and Welsh Office: Principal Medical Officer: Unregistered Files". Retrieved 2 June 2019. 
  7. "The restricted patients team". Retrieved 2 June 2019. 
  8. "Obituary: A. C. WHITE KNOX, C.B.E., M.C., M.B., Ch.B". British Medical Journal. 25 November 1961. Retrieved 2 June 2019. 
  9. "Principal Medical Officer (1895 - 1911)". Retrieved 2 June 2019. 
  10. "Vacancy Details". CASA. January 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2019. 
  11. "Dr. Mfutila Tsitukenina, Principal Medical Officer in Namibia". Capacity Plus. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2019. 

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