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Health innovation

Helping NHS Scotland stay at the forefront of medical advances

Scotland has a proud history of pioneering new medical technologies. In 1956 Professor Ian Donald, an obstetrician, and engineer Tom Brown developed the first prototype systems for ultrasound scanning in Glasgow, based on an instrument used to detect industrial flaws in ships. The technology that this prototype led to is now used every day in countries around the world.

During the 1970s scientists at the University of Aberdeen, led by Professor John Mallard, built the first full body MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner. In 1980 they were able to use the machine to produce the first clinically useful image of a patient’s internal tissues, creating a diagnostic tool that has revolutionised the detection of disease in the soft tissues of the human body. Like ultrasound, it is now in common use across the globe.

To help the NHS to stay at the forefront of medical advances, we need to continue the story of innovation through our uniquely positioned health service and ethos of collaboration in Scotland.

“Over the nearly 70 years of our NHS, it has had to continually evolve with our society - and it must continue to do so.”

Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health

Innovation through clinical research has been a focus, with the establishment of NHS Research Scotland (NRS). NRS promotes and supports excellence in clinical and translational research in Scotland so that patients can benefit from new and better treatments. Formed through a partnership of Scottish NHS Boards and the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) of Scottish Government, NRS work to ensure that NHS Scotland provides the best environment to support clinical research.

Innovation through collaboration with Scotland’s world-leading universities has been recognised as a key driver of innovative thinking, and sharing our knowledge and facilities with industry can lead to faster discovery and uptake of new medical practices. 

Innovation through new ideas led to the establishment of SHIL in 2002, encouraging innovative thinking across the entire health service and a continued commitment to identify, protect and develop innovative ideas generated by NHS employees.