|Description||The Scottish Medical Service Emergency Committee took up duty on 12th August 1914 and dissolved on 31st December 1919. Founded originally with the object of safeguarding civil practice, it became the authority for medical recruiting in Scotland. |
An immediate consequence of the general mobilisation was the withdrawal from civil practice of around 300 medical men who held commissions in the Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Army Medical Corps or combatant units. The chair of the Scottish Committee of the British Medical Association called a conference to consider what steps could be taken to alleviate this problem. It met on 12th August 1914 and appointed a Committee 'for the purposes of assisting to meet the immediate difficulties in regard to medical practice among the civil population which have arisen'. The Committee was named the Scottish Medical Service Emergency Committee and was composed of the presidents of the three Scottish Royal Colleges, the Deans of the Faculties of Medicine of the Universities of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh and eight members elected by the conference. These eight included five office-bearers of the British Medical Association (BMA), the President of the Medical Guild, deputy chairman of the Scottish Insurance Commission and the direct representative for Scotland on the General Medical Council. The members were Dr J J Graham Brown, Professor Francis Caird, Dr John Barlow, Professor J A C Kynoch, Professor D Noel Paton, Professor J T Cash, Professor H H Littlejohn, Dr John Adams, Dr G C Anderson, Dr John Gordon, Dr J R Hamilton, Dr John Stevens, Dr John Playfair, Dr John McVail, Dr Norman Walker and Dr J R Currie. The secretary of the Committee, and the librarian of the Royal College of Physicians, was Mr T H Graham.
Early work of the committee, to the end of 1914, was in the civil sphere, establishing the number of practitioners in Scotland, through the Medical Directory and the Scottish Insurance Commission, and their distribution, using the Scottish divisions of the BMA. It acted as a clearing house, matching those areas in need of medical services to medical practitioners able to do the work. In March 1915 the War Office issued its request for 'every qualified man who is physically fit and willing to serve'. To prevent this from putting a further strain on civilian medical services a system was devised whereby the names of all medical applicants from Scotland were sent by the Army Medical Services to the Scottish Insurance Commission who conferred about the possible ramifications with the Committee. If an appointment would have caused too much upheaval, it was refused, or more usually, delayed until extra support could be put in place. Later in the year, once the Committee was recognised as a recruiting agency by the War Office, Army Medical Services and the Committee dealt with each other direct.
Also in 1915 a second medical conference was held to consider the need of the Royal Army Medical Corps for additional officers. A resolution passed on 7th July 1915, undertook to provide at least 400 medical men for the Army. The Scottish Committee of the BMA asked for its branches to submit returns on how many practitioners each could spare (ref: SMC/3/2). In order to prevent a conflict between the Scottish Committee's military recruitment and the Emergency Committee's civil safeguarding, it was decided that both roles should be undertaken by the Emergency Committee. To that end the BMA passed its returns to the Emergency Committee to administer. The Emergency Committee in turn undertook its own survey (ref: SMS/3/3) thereby cementing the latter's role in the recruitment process.
[Source: The Mustering of Medical Service in Scotland 1914-1919 by J R Currie]
Contents: This collection was originally in bundles and transferred to 59 packets in the 1990s. It is not clear whether these packets reflect how the Committee held its papers. Some of them (eg SMC/3/8-10) are quite miscellaneous. As the collection also includes some of the papers of J R Currie, author of 'The Mustering of Medical Service in Scotland 1914-1919', it is possible that he went through the collection and rearranged some of the papers. Where possible, obvious series have been recreated. Where Currie explains the administrative decisions behind particular sections or series in his book, the relevant page number has been given. The holdings include: minutes of the Scottish Medical Service Emergency Committee, 1914-1919; correspondence, 1914-1920; administrative records including registers and index cards, 1914-1919; circulars and forms, 1914-1918; minutes of the Central Medical War Committee, 1915-1919; working papers of J R Currie, 1914-1921