One of the great questions for any ambitious health leader is how to get a particular pet project approved by the Department of Health.

With echoes of Yes, Minister, England’s outgoing chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson last week passed on some of his secrets on how to get things past ministers. Essentially, this seemed to involve confusing them with long words before riding roughshod over civil service protocol.

Speaking at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the creation of public health observatories, Sir Liam explained that focusing on technical areas encouraged a degree of “shroud waving”.

He said the next trick was to get round the working parties and consultations beloved of civil servants, which could take years.

His answer? Ignore them.

Sir Liam told mandarins he didn’t want either of these to hold up public health observatories and, after a quick chat with top health adviser and partner in crime Sir Muir Gray, set a date for them to go live. As a result they did, while another initiative - disease registers - went down the working party route and disappeared without a trace.

But the advice comes with a health warning: Sir Liam noted that such “undisciplined and antisocial behaviour” possibly led to unpopularity at Richmond House.