Initial Dewar Project Proposal


The 1912 Dewar Committee

Sir John Dewar, MP for Inverness-shire was the Chair of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service Committee report with summary as enclosed which recommended the establishment of the Highlands & Islands Medical Service. This service is believed to the first placed in the world to establish the principal of a community’s right to a local doctor with funding provision from the state.

The Highlands & Islands Medical Service became a worked example for state health care which was quoted in reports considering the concept of the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948. There is thus an historical thread which starts in the poverty of the Highlands & Islands at the turn of the 20th century, poor medical services and a desire to improve things by government which leads to the modern health service.

2012 – the year of celebration, reflection with possible events as follows:

  1. A day’s medical conference in Inverness
  2. A day’s political conference in Edinburgh
  3. A 2-3 day international conference in Aviemore (WONCA Rural)
  4. A series on television
  5. A play at the Edinburgh Festival
  6. A session at the RCGP Annual Conference
  7. Reflective publications

Potential Themes for Conferences and Publications:

  • Political progress
  • International context
  • Community Hospitals
  • Maternity services
  • Use of technology
  • Doctors in small communities
  • Government responding to data
  • Public Health

Quotes from Dewar to head up conference sessions or debates:

  • For the want of postgraduate instruction
  • Make better use of technology such as the telephone and internal combustion engine
  • People’s health is poor because they take quack medicine from the American manufacturer which is well advertised
  • If we could only have our own small hospital for my parish I could do more
  • The lack of availability of a qualified midwife is having an effect on infant mortality in the Highlands & Islands

Potential Collaboration Partners

  • RCGP Scotland
  • University of Highlands & Islands
  • BBC Scotland
  • Scottish Arts Council
  • Gaelic function streams

Invites to form Dewar 2012 Committee:

  • Dr James Douglas, GP Fort William
  • Dr John Gillies, Chair of Scottish Council
  • Dr Ronald McVicar, NHS Education
  • Dr Donald McVicar, GP Culloden
  • Dr Chris Robinson, retired GP & Medical History expert
  • Dr Richard Caldecott, UHI, Chair of Primary Healthcare in General Practice
  • Mr Malcolm MacLeod, Gaelic arts funding
  • Dr Peter Grant RCGP Faculty

Potential Timing:


  • Day conference – Inverness
  • Day conference – Edinburgh


  • TV series
  • International Conference
  • RCGP session

Next steps:

  • Set up a domain name eg Dewar
  • Suggestions please but we need to avoid a date!
  • Please get back to me by email and we can set up a video conference if you want to be involved

Dr James Douglas,
Tweeddale Medical Practice,
Fort William


  1. Wings Over Scotland | Why only independence can save our NHS - December 2, 2012

    […] they were unable to pay. The service came into being as a direct result of the publication of the Report of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service Committee in 1912. This report exposed inadequate medical and nursing services across large parts of the crofting […]