“Dundee used to be really behind the times in terms of getting people care. It was archaic.”
Accident and emergency expert Dr Bill Morrison has never been afraid to speak his mind on matters of health — and even now, with his NHS days behind him, nothing has changed.
Speaking to the Tele in the days after receiving an MBE for services to emergency care, Dr Morrison said he had seen many things come and go in his time working in Tayside.
He came to Dundee in 1993 as the city’s first A&E consultant at the Dundee Royal Infirmary.
It was only after the city’s A&E department moved from the DRI — which he branded a ‘ghost town’ in its latter years — to Ninewells in 1998 that he was really able to get to work.
“We were receiving people into A&E at the DRI and because everything had moved to Ninewells we’d have to get surgeons over in their car — it wasn’t a practical solution.”
He said that the biggest change he had seen in his time was in the types of injuries A&E docs were treating the moment people arrived at hospital and the big change was that there were far fewer serious injuries now.
He added: “There was a lot of road accidents at that time.
“We were seeing things on a huge scale, bad injuries, multiple pile-ups.
“That changed because road design has improved with bypasses, safety features in cars, safety legislation — the spectrum has shifted a bit now.
“We deal with far more medical problems now such as heart attacks and strokes.
“Not that long ago if someone had a heart attack you would give them morphine and put them in for bed rest.
“Now you actually get them to the cath lab and the cardiologists can put catheters in their hearts.
“All of these advancements in the technology, in this short space of time, even just the IT systems, are incredible.
“But that’s why we’ve got junior doctors — to keep me right.”
In his 22-year career in Tayside, Dr Morrison experienced all aspects of the NHS, including administrative changes like the introduction of health and social care partnerships.
In addition, as a fully trained doctor he has helped to save countless lives, whether on call in A&E or on-board a rapid response vehicle — an idea he supported in Ninewells long before it was popularised elsewhere.
He spoke candidly about his feelings on the bureaucratic side of the NHS, explaining: “It seems to be more important now that you keep a record of what you’re doing.
“The amount of records and targets we keep — I understand why we need to do it, we have to be accountable, but we’ve overshot it. We’ve lost focus.
“Integration with social care is all about the right model but it’s a double-edged sword.
“You don’t want an old person falling and breaking something and their carer just putting them to bed instead of going to A&E.”
However, he added that he is proud of Ninewell’s performance despite immense strain on A&E resources.
He said: “We’ve always topped the league tables.
“We always hit the 98% target for being seen in four hours.
“We could predict what would happen on a daily basis. We didn’t let a crisis happen.”
Despite retiring from NHS Tayside in 2015, Dr Morrison, who still lives in Dundee, continues to advise Scottish health chiefs.
And, throughout all the changes in care, in how hospitals are run, and the future that lies ahead for the NHS, he said he was proud of his end result.
He said: “I’m very proud of the way that the service has developed over the years.
“Dundee is very, very lucky to have Ninewells.”