School of Medicine and NHS celebrate 50 years at Ninewells

Published on 5 February 2024

School of Medicine staff, colleagues from NHS Tayside and one of the first patients to be treated at Ninewells have been among those celebrating the hospital’s 50th birthday.

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Opened in 1974 by the Queen Mother, Ninewells Hospital and the School of Medicine took over from the Dundee Royal Infirmary as the principal site of medical teaching for the University of Dundee.

The hospital blazed a trail as the first to have a school of medicine integrated into the modern build.

A special event to mark the anniversary was held on Wednesday (31 January), exactly 50 years since the first patients were admitted to the new state-of-the-art facility, which was the largest of its kind in Europe at the time.

Professor Rory McCrimmon, Dean of the School of Medicine, attended the celebratory event on the hospital concourse. It included a photo exhibition of Ninewells through the decades, a performance of happy birthday and a medley of 1970s hits by Just Sing at Maggie's Dundee, plus a celebration cake-cutting. 

Professor McCrimmon said, “When it was opened in 1974 by the Queen Mother, Ninewells Hospital was unique at the time for having the first medical school actually incorporated into its design and build. This close relationship between the School of Medicine and Hospital is one of the reasons we are renowned for our undergraduate medicine programme. We believe in training students as ‘Doctors from Day One’ and this is helped by the fact that our students are exposed to the clinical environment from the very first day.

“This close relationship with NHS Tayside also underpins our world-leading research that very much focuses on the clinical problems facing our society today.”

Professor McCrimmon was joined by the Chair of NHS Tayside Board, Lorna Birse-Stewart, and its Chief Executive, Professor Caroline Hiscox, at the event.

Mrs Birse-Stewart said, “Since its opening, Ninewells Hospital has touched many thousands of lives in Tayside in different ways. For half a century we have provided care to our local population, from birth through to last moments. 

“As each decade has come and gone the one constant is our amazing staff. In a hospital this size it takes thousands of staff from a whole range of departments to ensure that services run smoothly and each one makes a valuable contribution to our health and social care services.”

Professor Hiscox added, “Ninewells Hospital has a stellar reputation for innovation and excellence across the UK and beyond and I am proud to be back now, having worked here previously with fantastic teams. I look forward to working with colleagues across the whole health and care system to ensure that Ninewells and its staff continue to lead the way as we work together to redesign and improve services even further.”

Staff working across the hospital’s many departments and services attended the event, and among the special guests was Fiona Jackson, who was one of the first patients transferred to Ninewells from Maryfield Hospital on 31 January, 1974.

Fiona said, “There was quite a bit of fun ‘settling in’, trying out new gadgets and seeing how far a bed could be pumped up! Even the meals seemed special. My first visit to the concourse left me speechless – it was like an airport terminal. I even had my hair done in the hairdressers.

“Being one of the first patients left a huge impression on me. I know I was fortunate to receive treatment in a remarkable flagship hospital and have the support of the skilled staff who helped me come to terms with the physical changes of a lifetime condition.” 

The ceremonial first sod was cut on the site of the new hospital in August 1964 by Sir Thomas Malcolm Knox, Principal of University of St Andrews, and Lewis F. Robertson, Chairman of the Eastern Regional Hospital Board. This was followed in September 1965 by the laying of the foundation stone by Lord Hughes of Hawkhill, Minister in the Scottish Office and former Lord Provost of Dundee.

NHS Tayside has put together a gallery of images charting the history of the hospital – Celebrating 50 years of Ninewells Hospital: 1974 – 2024.