Success at Dewar 2013 Conference

On Friday 19th April, over fifty people attended the Dewar 2013 conference, held at the Kilmallie Free Church Community Centre in Fort William.  Another forty four people attended by webcast – an experiment for this conference, but one that we think went very well.  The day was widely covered on Twitter too, with the intention of engaging a wider audience and making remote participation possible.


The day saw a wide range of presentations and discussion about the future of rural areas in Scotland – with some focus on health care, but also the wider infrastructure and recruitment & retention to rural areas.   Between excellent shortbread and sandwiches, a vibrant range of workshops and plenaries looked at many angles of rural health care.

Miles giving his radio interview.

Miles giving his radio interview.

The morning kicked off early with the BBC Radio Scotland ‘Out of Doors’ presenter Euan McIlwraith interviewing some of the folks from the current Dewar Committee.  The programme was broadcast yesterday, and is available on BBC iPlayer for the next week.  We think it covers a lot of the conference topics effectively, and especially as the interviews are with ‘grass-roots’ GPs who can speak from much experience.

You can listen to the programme on BBC iPlayer until 26th April.  Scroll to 6min 30s for the feature on Dewar.


Annie Tindley introducing the conference

Annie Tindley introducing the conference

The day was then led very admirably by historian Annie Tindley, with a rapid introduction to the background behind Dewar 2013, including the need (and ease) of looking at Dewar’s original recommendations from 1912 into today’s context.  Why is it easy? Because a lot of the topics raised then, are just as pertinent now.  The benefits of having such wide-ranging input into the day – from our historical experts, to leads on political intervention, community infrastructure, local authority, education and healthcare – were evident.  In terms of looking at challenges to rural health care, we’re in this together and we need to find a multi-agency partnered approach to deal with many of the common issues.


So the day followed the programme as planned, involving participants as much as possible.  We heard from local Applecross resident Alison MacLeod, about their search for a new GP, informed views from the past, including former GP Dr Roddy MacLeod, the issues involved in maintaining emergency responses across rural areas, and a vibrant session with RRHEAL on supporting the continued professional development of staff in rural areas.

Hungry from the stimulating debates that resulted, we were treated to an excellent lunch by the ladies of the Kilmallie Free Church Community Hall, with some also able to enjoy a walk and enjoy the fantastic views of Loch Linnhe.  We were reminded that it’s not always like this in Fort William!


The afternoon session saw further involved debate and participation on issues such as First Responder schemes, rural GP recruitment & retention, and promoting effective working between communities and government.

One of the workshops

One of the workshops in full swing (Annie is keeping an eye on tweets there too!)

And then we all came back together, to sum up, make plans and allow further observations from everyone present  (including webcasting/tweeting).

Access to the webcast

The webcast part of the conference was an experiment, and one which seems to have worked rather well.  Over 40 people were able to join us, and participate using twitter and email.  There is no doubt that this opened up the conference to folks who find it impossible to make the one or two day trip away to attend conferences, even in semi-rural areas like Fort William.  We’d like to thank David Eglinton of HCVF Television, who did a great job with limited broadband in providing a continuous webcast.  In the next week, we aim to get the clips up here on so that you can view the full conference over the web.

What’s next?

The conference has generated many ideas and much enthusiasm for driving forward the issues that are clearly important to improve the prospects for Scotland’s rural and remote communities – both in terms of health and also other infrastructure.  It is clear that folk left the conference with more direction and resolve to ‘get on’ with the job of critical issues, such as recruitment and retention.

Watch this space for updates on opportunities to be involved with this.  Please be welcome to use the ‘comments’ facility on this page to submit your view, or use the hashtag #Dewar2013 on Twitter to tag your comments.

Finally, the Dewar Group would like to thank the Kilmallie Free Church and Community Centre for excellent hosting on the day.  We would enthusiastically recommend the venue to other groups looking to hold conferences in the Fort William area.  In addition, Dr Jim Douglas was instrumental as ‘our man on the ground’ and worked particularly hard to make the day as successful as it was.




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