Historical facts

1. The Highlands and Islands Medical Service was forerunner to the NHS in Scotland. It was a unique social experiment formally set up in 1913 with a Treasury grant of £42,000 in the wake of a report by Sir John Dewar’s Highlands and Islands Medical Services Committee.

2. Concern during the inter-war period over the relatively poor state of Scotland’s health and of the capacity of the existing patchwork of services to remedy it led to the 1936 Cathcart Report which sought to create a service to promote health rather than simply treat illness.

3. In 1939 the Emergency Hospital Service resulted in hospital building at an unprecedented pace to deal with expected civilian casualties in air raids. While the expected air raid casualties did not materialise the new facilities allowed the expansion of services.

4. Prior to 1948 it was common for working men to strap up their hernias rather than pay for treatment.

5. July 5, 1948 marked the start of the NHS in Scotland. For the first time everyone has free access to a family doctor, prescription drugs, glasses or dentures.

6. The NHS didn’t suddenly appear from nothing on 5 July 1948. It also did not create a single new nurse, doctor or bed. Health Minister Aneurin (also known as Nye) Bevan merely nationalised the existing system across the UK.

7. Half a million Scots (1 in 10 of the entire population) were able to have free spectacles within four months of the inception of the NHS in Scotland. Half a million also got free dentures in the first year.

8. In the early days of the NHS, nurses were in such short supply that patients who were able, took on some of their duties. It demonstrated a collective spirit and willingness to support the new service that has continued to the present day.

9. Affluent patients tended to be treated at home or in private nursing rooms prior to the introduction of the NHS. Consultants usually worked unpaid in the voluntary hospitals, relying on outside private practice for their income.

10. In the first year of the NHS, 15 million prescriptions were dispensed in Scotland at an average cost of 44 old pence (18.3p) and at a total cost of £2.75 million.

11. The actual cost of the NHS was 40 per cent higher than had been predicted which in part, together with the need to fund the Korean War in 1952, led to charges being introduced for dentures and glasses. Nye Bevan resigned from the UK Cabinet as a result.

12. In 1896 tobacco was heralded as an effective way of preventing disease.

13. In 1954 Around 80 per cent of the adult population were smokers.

14. A Medical Research Council study by Sir Richard Doll and Sir Austin Bradford Hill of UK doctors in 1954 shows link between smoking and lung cancer.

15. At a news conference in 1954 reporting the first link between smoking and cancer, Health Minister Iain McLeod chained smoked throughout.

16. In 1982 the Scottish World Cup team became the first non-smoking football team at the World Cup.

17. The UK-wide smoking ban was introduced first in Scotland in 2006.

18. Historically, Scotland has been at the forefront of medical technology. Glasgow produced the first practical ultrasound scanners in 1958, which in modern forms continue to save countless lives across the world.

19. The first kidney transplant was performed by an Edinburgh doctor, Michael Woodruff, in 1960. The procedure was a success, with both donor and recipient living for a further six years.

20. Formal provision of free contraceptive advice and family planning services to all, irrespective of age or marital status, was introduced in 1974.