Professor Terence Stephenson

Former RCPCH President
James Spence Medallist

Start year of presidency: 2009

End year of presidency: 2012

Year James Spence Medal awarded: 2016

Professor Terence Stephenson is a practising clinical academic paediatrician who currently holds the Nuffield Chair of Child Health at University College London Institute of Child Health and is an Honorary Consultant Paediatrician at University College Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Terence grew up in Northern Ireland and qualified as a doctor in 1983 after education at Bristol University, Imperial College London and New College Oxford. After initial training in Oxford and London, he took a Lecturer post in Child Health in 1986 under the excellent mentorship of Sir David Hull and was subsequently appointed Senior Lecturer in 1990 and Professor of Child Health in 1996. His remit was to expand the paediatric research base in Nottingham. In 2003 he became Dean of the Medical School in Nottingham which he continued to lead until moving to UCL in 2009.

In seven years at UCL he has obtained £7.6 million in research funding and led a successful bid to host the Children’s Policy Research Unit (CPRU) with Department of Health funding. He is currently Co-Director of the CPRU which has 15 research staff across five work-streams. He has published over 160 peer reviewed scientific papers, more than 120 invited chapters, editorials and commentaries and seven books. He has been invited to give lectures in 30 countries and in 50 UK centres. Terence’s scientific contributions have extended from laboratory research on neonatal nutrition to clinical trials and policy research. He has supervised 17 research students.

His RCPCH involvement began as a College examiner and then election as Vice-President for Science & Research between 2007 and 2009, bringing a focus on science-based advocacy and a greater public presence for the College and leading the College’s participation work involving young people and parents. He was subsequently elected President of the RCPCH from 2009 to 2012 and led the organisation through a period of considerable political turbulence.

He organised the first electronic referendum in the College's history so that he had a clear democratic mandate in publicly opposing the NHS Bill 2011-2012. He guided the RCPCH in agreeing ten published national standards, ‘Facing the Future: Standards for Paediatric Services’. This was the first time the College committed publicly to a defined set of standards for all children receiving inpatient care or assessment across the UK. A 2013 audit showed that the standards had been widely adopted and are used as the benchmark for paediatric provision. He also set the agenda in publishing ‘Facing the Future: A Review of Paediatric Services’ (2011) which was widely quoted as a blueprint for children’s services, delivering the best care as close to home as possible.  Terence thought that a new Royal College should not mimic older institutions and developed a new crest without a Latin motto and only wore the College gown at the request of MRCPCH admission ceremonies.

Following his RCPCH Presidency, he was elected Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges from 2012 to 2014. Terence led the medical profession in responding to a series of major health service challenges and instigated major national advocacy campaigns around obesity and tobacco. A key achievement was obtaining consensus across the colleges on the need for a seven day acute and emergency service, staffed to the same level at weekends as weekdays. Other achievements included reports on avoiding over-treatment and differential attainment by BME doctors in exams. The Academy’s report on obesity, ‘Measuring Up’ (2013), united the colleges and prompted significant national action.

Whilst at the AoMRC, Terence continued to work on behalf of children, being on the Board of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the first Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and Chair of the Scientific Committee of the European Paediatric Association 2013-2015. His long-term advocacy on smoking contributed significantly to the ban on smoking in cars carrying children and plain tobacco packaging in England.

Terence became a member of the General Medical Council in 2009 at a time of major concerns about safe-guarding and worked hard to improve the GMC’s understanding of paediatric practice. Appointed Chair of the GMC from January 2015 by the Privy Council, he is working to progress innovative reforms, including a national medical licensing assessment, improving fitness to practice procedures, helping vulnerable doctors, improving guidance on confidentiality and consent, and a review of flexibility in medical training.

Through these various national roles, Terence has advised a succession of government ministers of all political persuasions and worked tirelessly to promote children’s health through policy and media advocacy. These appointments speak testament to Terence’s abilities and capacity for hard work and the immense respect in which he is held by paediatricians and other doctors across the UK. This wide respect across the profession is shown by him being awarded the RCPCH’s James Spence Medal in 2016 and offered 11 honorary Fellowships, from surgery to general practice, from England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and Hong Kong.