18 February 2021

S5M-23483 Highlands and Islands Medical Service

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-23483, in the name of David Stewart, on the Highlands and Islands medical service. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament celebrates the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, which was set up in August 1913; notes that it was established following the National Health Insurance Act 1911, which provided workers with health insurance but did not cover crofters and great swathes of the Highlands and Islands; recognises the exemplary research that was carried out by the Dewar Committee, which was chaired by Sir John Dewar and comprised of men, women, doctors, teachers and others who travelled the length and breadth of the region and whose recommendations included standardising the cost of doctors’ visits regardless of distance, creating a minimum wage for doctors, funding more district nursing associations and increasing communication channels for doctors, and recognises that it was the first state-provided health service in the world and is generally considered to be the model for the NHS, which was established 35 years later.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I have bypassed my domestic broadband failure by being out in my car and using my phone to connect. That will work perfectly well, but more fundamentally, I sit looking out at the very last of the sun over the Moray Firth to the Highlands and the area from which my father came. He was born and brought up in the Black Isle.

My main hobby these days is genealogy. Therefore, I look at many certificates, particularly death certificates, of my ancestors and the ancestors of friends. What is remarkable from looking at the cause of death for many people in the Highlands into quite modern times, is that the certificate will simply say: “General debility—no medical attendant.” In other words, there were no medical people to tend to people at the end of their life and—as I know perfectly well—at other points in their life.

The Highlands and Islands medical service was a remarkable and visionary attempt to right the wrongs of poor access to proper healthcare, which had been wholly absent all across rural areas of Scotland. One of the early appointments was a community nurse being sent to Hirta—St Kilda—just in time for the first world war to break out.

The world into which my father was born in 1904 in the Highlands was a fundamentally different environment from that of today. Every decade has seen the health service and health provision in the Highlands, and across Scotland and beyond, change. My first dentist, for example, had no medical qualifications whatsoever, so he could not prescribe or give anaesthesia when he was working on the teeth in people’s mouths.

The Highlands and Islands medical service was a remarkable and visionary step that came from the Liberal Government of the time, which also introduced the national insurance system that provided people with pensions for the first time. In one of the imaginary tales that were written more than 100 years ago, Para Handy talks about pension farming and about medical provision in the Highlands and Islands, from the point of view of the coastal trade in which he and his crew sailed around our coasts.

I particularly congratulate David Stewart on bringing the debate to Parliament. He, as I and others are, is coming to the end of his parliamentary career, so this will probably be the last debate that he leads. If that is so, there is no finer way for a parliamentarian of his considerable distinction to go out—albeit that I have not agreed with him on every subject—than on a high, by bringing an important topic to Parliament for debate.

Today, we have a health service that is modelled on the experience of the service. Without it, we would probably not have had what we now take for granted in the NHS in Scotland today.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Thank you, Mr Stevenson, for showing your commitment by going out to sit in your car.


Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP