JVT hails colleagues as he is knighted for helping steer nation through pandemic

Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam said he was “standing on the shoulders of others” after being knighted for helping steer the nation through the pandemic with his public health work and broadcasts.

Sir Jonathan, known to friends and colleagues as JVT, gained public affection for delivering health messages with a dose of humour and colourful analogies during the Covid crisis he described as a period of “crazy, but determined focus.”

He was recognised alongside former colleague Dr Dame Jenny Harries, who like the professor is a former deputy chief medical officer for England and was made a Dame Commander for her role supporting the health of the nation and making broadcasts.

Speaking after the Buckingham Palace investiture ceremony hosted by the Duke of Cambridge, Sir Jonathan said: “Looking back at the height of the pandemic, time has just compressed.

Professor Dame Jenny Harries
Professor Dame Jenny Harries at the palace (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“And it’s kind of very difficult to separate the beginning from where we are now, because it’s just been such a whirlwind, but it was really a time of kind of crazy, but determined focus.”

Dame Jenny, now chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “We’re both public health doctors and in many ways trying to work through the pandemic, understand the new pathogen and respond to it and enable the public and the services to join together and get through it, is actually really what we’re trained to do.”

Sir Jonathan joined the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on secondment from the University of Nottingham in 2017 and has returned to be the pro-vice-chancellor for the faculty of medicine and health sciences.

He praised colleagues in his former office as “absolutely superb” and said: “Well, it’s always an honour and also very humbling to be recognised.

“But I have to say it again, when you get this kind of thing, when you work in the kind of teams we’ve worked in over the last two-and-a-half years – you are standing on the shoulders of others.”

Professor Kevin Fenton
Professor Kevin Fenton (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Professor Kevin Fenton, regional director, public health, NHS London, was made a CBE for services to public health.

His focus was the health of London and he also appeared on screen to deliver Covid messages.

Prof Fenton said: “It’s been a real privilege to be able to be the public health leader for this wonderful city of nine million people and have the responsibility of taking us all through the pandemic safely, to limit harm and to make sure we emerge on the other side.”

Jordan Henderson, captain of Liverpool Football Club and an England player, was awarded an MBE For services to his sport and charity, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, but declined to speak to the press.

Henderson won the FA and League cups with Liverpool last season. He has also won more than 60 international caps and in April 2020 was an architect of the Players Together initiative that encouraged professional footballers to donate to the NHS.