Dr Gabriel Scally who has been appointed by the Government to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the cervical cancer controversy is no stranger to the health service here.

And he has accused the UK's National Health Service of deliberately assisting the private sector in its efforts to make big profits out of healthcare.

The 63-year-old from West Belfast trained as a medical doctor in the city's Queens University. He was a prominent member of the QUB Students' Union and frequently advocated for the development of public health services in campaigns organised by the Union of Students of Ireland.

After serving for seven years as Director of Public Health in the Eastern Health and Social Services Board in Northern Ireland, in 1994 Dr Scally was appointed as a public health director in the NHS in England.

He co-chaired the British government's advisory committee on sexual health and has co-authored the standard textbook on public health in the UK.

Among papers he published in professional journals was a landmark one on 'clinical governance' following some of the major clinical failures in services in England.

Resigned

In 2012, Dr Scally resigned from England's Department of Health as a direct result of his alarm at the health policies of the then Conservative-Liberal Democrats' coalition government. He said he wanted the freedom to oppose the then Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley's, shakeup of the NHS.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper that year, he attacked employment contracts forbidding criticism of official policy which, he believed, led to the muzzling of extensive concerns that many working in the system harboured privately about the restructuring.

Among the cuts to public health spending he witnessed was a reduction in his own staff from fifty to nine. In the same Guardian article, he criticized Mr Lansley's championing of the so-called 'responsibility deal' to tackle obesity and alcohol misuse along with the abolition of regional public health observatories, which had provided independent research and data collection.

He told the Guardian that NHS policy is deliberately assisting what he called, "the circling birds of prey of the private sector seeking to make big profits out of healthcare."

That meant less money for patients, he said.

After resigning his civil service post, Dr Scally was appointed as an associate fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank and as a visiting chair at Bristol University and the University of the West of England.