Celebrations and events marking the 65th anniversary of the NHS are currently taking place across Scotland.
For the Western Isles community, the anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate our local achievements and reflect on the extraordinary journey of the development of the local health service over the past six and a half decades.
It also gives us the opportunity to recognise the contribution of staff, professional organisations and volunteers who have made the service what it is today.
Healthcare in the Western Isles has progressed dramatically since the launch of the National Health Service on July 5th, 1948.
Back in the 1940s and 1950s, it was not unusual for doctors in remote and rural areas of the Western Isles to travel by horseback to see patients.
The photograph here shows Dr AJ Macleod (the late Uist GP) leaving Craigard on horseback to see a patient back in 1959.
Fast forward 54 years to 2013, and the opportunities offered by technology have transformed the way healthcare is provided locally; improving patient safety and efficiency and providing better access to specialist care on-island.
For example, some Western Isles patients no longer have to travel to the mainland for certain consultations with specialists, and can instead have appointments set up via videolink, which means that appointments are far more convenient for patients.
Using technology to share clinical information, the most recent example of which is the introduction of digital pens for community nurses, has also improved efficiency and increased the amount of time nurses have available to spend with and care for patients.
The digital pens transfer handwritten notes into a digital format, which can then be recorded and shared.
This means that patients’ notes can be saved to a secure system at the point of care (e.g. a patient’s own home), without the nurse having to travel back to their base to access the system and input notes into a computer.
Who could predict how services will develop over the next 65 years?
To mark the 65th anniversary of the NHS, NHS Western Isles has developed a 65th Anniversary website (www.wihb.scot.nhs/65th), which includes old photographs, stories and links to further information.
Anyone with a story or memory of the health service in the Western Isles is encouraged to share their memories on this webpage.
Also incorporated into the new site is a webpage to mark the 20th anniversary of the official opening of Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway.
This site includes a slide-show of photographs taken during the construction of the hospital, as well as photographs of the official opening of the facility.
The hospital, which took two years to build and cost £32million, first opened to patients in September 1992, providing elderly, psychiatric and acute services all on one site, as well as housing the school of nursing and an accredited GP vocational scheme.
The new facilities, which were officially opened by Lord of the Isles, HRH Prince Charles, on March 26th, 1993, replaced the old County and Lewis Hospitals in Stornoway, both of which were over 100 years old at that time.
The national NHS 65 site, www.ournhsscotland.com/65-years also includes a number of positive Western Isles patient stories.
NHS Western Isles will also be releasing a special edition of Slàinte magazine to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the NHS, and small events will be held on the day itself and throughout the rest of the year to mark the occasion.
This will include a special 65th anniversary walk, launching a 65thanniversary garden and possibly larger events in the autumn and winter.