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7 June 2024

Professor Sir Mansel Aylward’s Legacy

The Bevan Commission pays tribute to its founder, Professor Sir Mansel Aylward CB, who has passed away.

The Bevan Commission

We are deeply saddened by the passing of our founder, Professor Sir Mansel Aylward CB, a visionary leader, a dedicated champion for public health, and a tireless advocate for the principles of the NHS.

Sir Mansel passed away peacefully on the 29th May 2024. Sir Mansel’s services to health and social care were monumental throughout his distinguished career, notably serving as Chief Medical Officer, Medical Director and Chief Scientist at the DHSS/DWP in Whitehall for 10 years and being appointed as the first ever Chair of Public Health Wales NHS Trust.

Sir Mansel’s vision will always remain at the heart of the Bevan Commission’s work, and his legacy of innovation, compassion and courageous leadership will guide our continued efforts to ensure all Welsh citizens can access the very best health and care.

Sir Mansel’s Legacy

Professor Sir Mansel Aylward CB was an extraordinary person. Throughout his long and influential career, he pursued health and care excellence with a humility, kindness and determination which inspired those fortunate enough to know him. Although his legacy will be felt across the world, Mansel will be most dearly missed in Wales where he worked tirelessly for his community and was loved by so many.

Sir Mansel was born in the Ex-servicemen’s Club in Merthyr Tydfil in November 1942. From an early age, Sir Mansel went above and beyond to look after those in need. As a 23-year-old medical student, Sir Mansel was driving home to Merthyr Tydfil when he was pulled over by police who told him he could not go any further because there had been a disaster in Aberfan. Upon learning about his medical training, he was sent to assist the rescue effort, where he was one of the first responders at the Aberfan Disaster; the tragic event in which a coal waste tip collapsed, killing 116 children and 28 adults. This event profoundly impacted him, and after completing his training, he returned to Merthyr Tydfil to take up a position as a General Practitioner.

In 1974, Sir Mansel founded SIMBEC Research Ltd in Merthyr Tydfil, a research laboratory specialising in pharmaceutical, medical therapies, and clinical interventions for clients across the world. His leadership led to the company receiving several awards, including the BBC Company of the Year Award and the European Small Business Award. During this period, he also worked with Women’s Health Concern to found the first non-NHS Hormone Replacement and Menopause Clinics in the UK.

Between 1988 and 1995, Sir Mansel held several key roles at the Department of Social Security (DSS) and the Department of Health & Social Services (DHSS). Initially serving as a Senior Medical Officer at the DSS, he quickly progressed to become the Principal Medical Officer and Business Development Director for the Benefits Agency Medical Services (BAMS). During this time, Sir Mansel was the principal author of the first edition of The Disability Handbook, a key resource that is widely used to uphold and enforce the rights of those living with disability.

Between 1995 and 2005, Sir Mansel took on key roles in London as the Chief Medical Advisor, Medical Director, and Chief Scientist at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Here, he was responsible for developing the Personal Capability Assessment, a key component of the government’s Welfare Reform Programme, which focused on rehabilitation, re-skilling, and support for people with disabilities. His efforts brought greater transparency and objectivity to the assessment of work capacity and disabilities, influencing policy and practice across Europe.

Returning to Wales in 2005, Sir Mansel was appointed as the Director of the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University. Here, he led a multidisciplinary team researching the psychological, social, and cultural factors impacting health, illness, and disability in disadvantaged communities.

His work in Wales also included:

  • 2008-2024: Establishing and chairing the Bevan Commission, Wales’ leading independent health and care think tank, providing strategic advice on health and care in Wales.
  • 2009-2017: Sir Mansel was the inaugural Chair of Public Health Wales, overseeing the unification of public health services and the establishment of the Wales National Public Health Observatory.
  • 2017-2021: Sir Mansel was Chair of Wales’ Life Sciences Hub, a collaborative innovation centre producing research, development, and commercialisation in the life sciences sector.

Sir Mansel’s expertise and leadership were recognised internationally. He has served as a consultant to the United States Social Security Administration and as a special advisor to the New Zealand Ministry of Health. His contributions to disability assessment, medicine and public health earned him visiting and honorary professorships at several universities in Europe and North America.

Sir Mansel was made a Companion of the Bath in 2002 and was knighted in 2010, in recognition of his significant contributions to public health. He has also been awarded the Freedom of Merthyr Tydfil, a testament to his enduring commitment to his community.

Throughout his career, Professor Sir Mansel Aylward was known as a kind, compassionate and inspirational leader with a profound dedication to improving the lives of people across Wales, the UK, and internationally. His work will have significant and enduring impact on public health policy and practice, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations in Wales and beyond.

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