Keyhole Surgery

Keyhole SurgeryThe broader term “keyhole” surgery has long been applied in orthopaedics.

It develops as minimal access surgery using a narrow tube (laparoscope) to see inside the body. Surgeons then operate using instruments via a television screen.

Sir Alfred Cuschieri pioneers training, establishing Dundee as a leading European centre to develop surgeons’ skills.

Breast Cancer Screening introduced

Dumfries, Aberdeen and Dundee are early NHS pioneers in screening for cervical cancer. Edinburgh, under Forrest, does the same for breast screening in the 1980s culminating in his report.

Screening focuses attention on the disease. Helps to lead to better service provision by the NHS and support for patients by cancer charities, including Maggie’s Centres which were first established in Scotland.

Sir James Black awarded Nobel Prize for Medicine

Fife-born James Black cuts his research teeth at the Glasgow Veterinary School physiology laboratory in the 1950s.

Other teams are looking at increasing the supply of oxygen to patients with narrowed arteries. Black’s genius is to look at it from the other end – how to restrict the heart’s demand for oxygen through the adrenaline hormone.

This leads to the beta blocker. He later applies the same principles to block acid secretion in the stomach by histamine. Management of stomach ulcers and heart disease was changed forever.

First case of AIDS identified

First case of AIDS identifiedThe sharing of contaminated needles among drug users in the early 1980s proves a major source of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection, the virus that leads to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Surveys showed that up to 52% of drug users in Edinburgh and 40% in Dundee were infected.

MRI service starts

MRI service startsAugust 28 – an elderly Fraserburgh man becomes the first patient in the world to have a whole body scan. It picked up tumours in his liver which would eventually claim his life.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) then also known as NMR, is revolutionary. Unlike X-rays, it has no risk of radiation.

Black Report published

Shetland-born Sir Douglas Black was professor of medicine at Manchester University.

He was one of a group of prominent Scottish doctors – which included Sir John Brotherston, Archie Cochrane, Sir Dugald Baird, Sir John Crofton, David Player and James Petrie – who challenged complacency in whatever form – denying the link between poverty and ill- health or recognising that medicine should be based on objective evidence of trials.


Hans Kosterlitz and his colleague John Hughes are the first scientists to identify enkephalins, later called endorphins.

These are the pain killing substances the brain produces at the time of severe injury and what gives people the “buzz” they get from hard exercise.

The work is carried out in the unit for addictive drugs Kosterlitz set up following his retiral at the age of 70 from the chair of pharmacology at Aberdeen. Its work is considered sufficiently important to attract grant funding from the USA as well as the UK.

NHS Family Planning rolls out

The formal roll-out of services across Scotland in 1974 comes in the wake of the revolution in social attitudes triggered by the advent of the oral contraceptive pill in 1961.

Scotland has a tradition of pioneering approaches to family planning.

Edinburgh-born Marie Stopes was an early pioneer in birth control, opening the first clinic in London in 1921. The first Scottish family planning clinic opened in Glasgow in 1925.

Sir Dugald Baird in Aberdeen championed a woman’s right to “fifth freedom” – freedom from the tyranny of excessive fertility.

Glasgow Coma Scale developed

The Glasgow Coma Scale starts life as a research tool developed by Professor Bryan Jennett and Sir Graham Teasdale with colleagues in Holland and the USA.

It seeks to reduce the number of avoidable deaths in head injury patients due to failure to spot complications early enough.

Its plain language makes it easy to use by doctors and nurses. It becomes the international gold standard used every day in hospitals in every continent.

Chief Scientist Office created

Chief Scientist Office createdIts task is to work with the universities, and UK research councils and Scottish Hospital Endowments Research Trust, another unique creation of the NHS in Scotland, pooling individual hospitals’ funding from the old system.

It goes on to back a whole range of projects across the biomedical and social sciences.


Healthier Scotland