The NHS in Lothian

Creation of the NHS in 1948

The NHS in Scotland came about as a result of a number of reports on health services in Britain. In particular, the Cathcart Report of the Committee on Scottish Health Services (1936) recommended more cooperation between local authorities, hospital governing bodies and voluntary staff. This was followed by both the Beveridge Report, Social Insurance and Allied Services (1942), and Bevan Report (1945), which led to the National Health Service (NHS) (Scotland) Act 1947 being passed. The NHS came into being in Scotland on 5 July 1948.

Over 400 hospitals, with accommodation for around 60,000 patients, became Crown property and were formally vested in the Secretary of State for Scotland operating through the Department of Health for Scotland (DHS). Five Regional Hospital Boards (RHBs) were created to administer Scottish hospitals on a regional basis. This was accomplished through 85 local Hospital Boards of Management. RHBs co-ordinated various aspects of hospital services, including specialists and diagnostic laboratory facilities as well as medical research. Hospitals in the Lothian area, as well as Fife and the Borders, were administered by the South Eastern Regional Hospital Board.

The DHS also assumed overall responsibility for 25 Local Health Authorities which co-ordinated a variety of community-based services, including maternity and child welfare, midwifery, immunisation, vaccination and other aspects of preventative medicine, health visiting, home nursing. Although general practitioners (GPs), dentists, chemists and opticians remained self-employed, the DHS set up Executive Councils to arrange payment for services for NHS patients. These Executive Councils replaced the existing Insurance Committees. In addition, a Scottish Medical Practices Committee was set up to help co-ordinate the distribution of GPs nationally. Locally, doctors’ views were also represented via Local Medical Committees.

The City of Edinburgh had its own Executive Council and its own local medical committee. The members of Edinburgh Local Medical Committee (ELMC) were elected at a meeting of Edinburgh doctors on 11 June 1947, and the first ELMC meeting was held on 19 June 1947. Seven members of ELMC were elected at this first meeting to make up part of the membership of the Executive Council, as instructed in the Act.

Records of the Edinburgh Local Medical Committee

Online exhibition celebrating the creation of the NHS