His father John was in general practice, and
Robbies daughter Fiona (39) is following in the family tradition,
in fact they worked together in Robbies former Springburn
practice. Robbie (68) remembers taking calls from patients as a
youngster for his father, who was a GP in Dennistoun. The surgery
was in a tenement in the Gallowgate and there was no appointment
system, patients simply turned up. Robbies father and stepmother,
also a GP, were on call 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
At that time GPs were hesitant to organise a rota system, this
was because their incomes depended on the number of patients they
had and they feared that some would be headhunted by colleagues!
Home confinements were common and Mr Robertson senior, who had experience
in chest complaints, saw many TB patients.
Robbie said: Going on holiday was a nightmare unless my father
could find a good locum. If he and my stepmother went out for a
meal and a call came in, I had to telephone the restaurant. My father
would leave to visit the patient or if it wasnt urgent he
would call in on the way home. It was a hard life, but they both
just accepted it and my father had a great relationship with his
Despite his fathers advice, Robbie went into general practice
in 1966, which coincided with the Doctors Charter
and changes in contracts for the first time since 1948.
Doctors were rebelling about hours and pay, remembers
He practised first in Bishopbriggs and then in Springburn, where
the practice included two part-time women GPs. By this time contracts
included payments for services, reducing the dependence on patient
numbers and, thanks to the Doctors Charter, an out-of-hours
allowance had been introduced.
In 1982, Robbie moved into Springburn Health Centre and he and
other doctors covering that area, including Townhead and Easterhouse,
formed their own version of the Doctors Deputising Service.
It was called the North East Deputising Service, or NEDS! Many on-call
visits were to children and Robbie was initially puzzled when as
soon as he entered the home, the father would leave. Then he learned
that this was to stand guard over the doctors car to stop
it being vandalised!
Poverty hit Springburn hard when the railway depot closed and the
impact on health was reflected in low uptakes for immunisation and
other screening services.
In 1998, the 50th anniversary of the NHS, Robbie was awarded the
MBE following a campaign by a patient.
If you put a lot into the practice you get not only recognised,
but appreciated and you get the patients you deserve! Im very
proud of my MBE because it came from the patients.
His daughter Fiona is currently working as a locum in Fife and
thoroughly enjoying her choice of career as, like her father, she
is a people person. Increasing numbers of women are becoming GPs
and they currently make up the majority of students Robbie lectures
to. He believes that because of family commitments, they will influence
how the service is delivered with increasing numbers of job-share
While Robbie has concerns about targets making general practice
too business-like and the influence of the private sector, if he
had an opportunity to repeat his career, he would do the same again.
You need a sense of humour to be a GP, and I enjoyed my time
in the East End of Glasgow.
Now he is passing on his expertise and experience through lecturing
to the next generation of GPs.
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