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A Significant Medical History

When the NHS was launched, the Government expected that its driving force would be the GPs. They intended that family doctors would work from Health Centres where health visitors and practice nurses would also be based. In the 1940s and 1950s this did not happen.

Local councils were supposed to spearhead the development of Health Centres. Glasgow Corporation, having just seen all of its hospitals nationalised, was not enthusiastic. Nor were the doctors keen either. They were paid not according to the quality of the service which they provided but according to the number of patients on their list. Money spent on better premises and facilities was effectively coming out of the GPs own pockets. Only when the Government provided extra money for buildings in the 1960s, did health centres start to materialise.

In Glasgow, the creation of Health Centres was particularly hard work. A Coordinating Committee was set up in 1965 to manage the task. This was chaired by Bailie Agnes Patrick. Despite her best efforts the committee proved cumbersome. Planning permission proved a thorny issue. In Woodside, Govan and Gorbals the first Health Centres were completed in the early 1970s.

The experience of GPs in Bridgeton was more typical. Although Bridgeton had been declared a “Band A” priority in 1970, the Health Centre’s completion was much delayed. In 1975, Dr William Fulton wrote “... the situation of the doctors in Bridgeton becomes more desperate with every month that passes”. Yet the 1976 national financial crisis caused further postponement and the work was not completed until 1982. Bridgeton Health Centre cost one million pounds. When it finally opened the Centre provided a base for doctors, dentists, social workers, nurses, midwives, chiropodists, physiotherapists, radiographers and chemists.

Over the years health centres have proved beneficial to patients. They provide the basis for treating the whole person and for doing so in the wider context of their family and community, a concept now taken to the next level by the introduction of Community Health (and Care) Partnerships.

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Family doctors