From 2003 until 2009 David Steel was Chief Executive of NHS Quality Improvement Scotland (NHS QIS), the organisation responsible for leading improvement in the quality and safety of healthcare in Scotland, and for assuring the public about the quality of their health services.
After 12 years as Lecturer in Public Administration at the University of Exeter, during which time he served for 5 years as a member of the local health authority, he moved into NHS management in 1984 as Assistant Director of the National Association of Health Authorities. Having moved to Scotland in 1986, he joined the NHS Management Executive in the Scottish Office at its inception in 1990 as Director of Corporate Affairs, moving to the post of Head of Health Gain in 1995. He was Chief Executive of the Clinical Standards Board for Scotland from its establishment in April 1999 until its merger with NHS QIS in 2003.
In retirement he has been (honorary) Senior Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen from 2009 until 2018, held jointly in the Health Services Research Unit and the Business School. He chaired the Prioritisation Panel of the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research Programme until March 2014. He wrote (with J D Cylus) a report on the health system in Scotland which was published in 2012 by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies; and contributed the chapter on Scotland to a King’s Fund report on integrated care in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (2013). With Professor David Heald he was awarded a British Academy grant to study the governance of public bodies in the UK. He currently chairs the Joint Accreditation Steering Committee of the Royal College of Radiologists and the College of Radiographers.
In the New Year Honours List 2008 he received an OBE for services to healthcare. In 2014 he was elected a (non-medical) Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.