Public Health Department of the City of Edinburgh

Scope and Content

Management and administration 1865-1982; patients (bound and unbound records) 1908-1997

Administrative / Biographical History

Edinburgh was the first Scottish local authority to appoint a Medical Officer of Health: Henry Duncan Littlejohn was appointed in 1862. Public health matters originally came under the Lord Provost's Committee of the Town Council. Following the Public Health (Scotland) Act of 1867, a Public Health Committee was set up by the Town Council in 1872. The Public Health Committee was responsible for sanitary matters and the control of infectious diseases. Its remit was gradually extended to cover in addition: the administration of municipal hospitals; maternity and child welfare; the control of venereal diseases; veterinary matters; food hygiene; environmental health; mental health services; health visiting and home nursing services. In 1948 the municipal hospitals became part of the National Health Service. Several more functions of the Health Department were transferred to the Lothian Health Board in 1974, and the Community Services and Communicable Diseases Division was formed to administer child health services, community health and nursing services, epidemiological and preventative services.


Chronological within record class

Access Information

Public access to these records is governed by the UK Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and the latest version of the Scottish Government Records Management: NHS Code of Practice (Scotland). Whilst some records may be accessed freely by researchers, the aforementioned legislation and guidelines mean that records with sensitive information on named individuals may be closed to the public for a set time.

Where records are about named deceased adults, they will be open 75 years after the latest date in the record, on the next 01 January. Records about individuals below 18 years (living or deceased) or adults not proven to be deceased will be open 100 years after the latest date in the record, on the next 01 January. Further information on legislation and guidelines covering medical records can be found on the LHSA webpage (

LHSA can support the use of records closed to public access for legitimate clinical, historical and genealogical research purposes. Please contact the LHSA Archivist for more details regarding procedures on how you can apply for permission to view closed records. Telephone us on: 0131 650 3392 or email us at

Acquisition Information

Community Medicine Specialists Office, Western General Hospital, May 1983, and Community Services and Communicable Diseases, Johnstone Terrace, October 1983


Compiled by Mike Barfoot and Jenny McDermott using existing handlists

Other Finding Aids

Manual item-level descriptive list available

Custodial History

Records held within the National Health Service and Edinburgh City Council prior to transfer


No further accessions are expected

Related Material

Lothian Health Board (LHB37)Primary Care Division, Lothian Health Board (LHB24)


Tait, H. P. A doctor and two policemen: the history of Edinburgh Health Department, 1862-1974 Edinburgh: Mackenzie and Storrie: Public Health Department, 1974