The Origins and History of Highland Hospice


Highland Hospice would not exist today, were it not for the willful determination of the two ladies whose vision it was to have a Hospice in the Highlands.

Cecilia Bottomley and Flora Mackay made a powerful impact when they joined forces to start the Highland Hospice campaign.  In the early 1980s they both worked as nurses in Culduthel Hospital in Inverness, where they identified the need for a specialist palliative care centre in the Highlands.

This excellent newspaper interview with the ladies, courtesy of Scottish Provincial Press, highlights their passion and drive which resulted in Highland Hospice.



In spring 1983 the first meeting took place to form the first Hospice committee.  Joining Flora and Cecilia were Sam Marshall, Dr Walter Borthwick, consultant physician Dr Finlay Kerr and solicitor Douglas Graham. 

After a lot of hard work and determination, Highland Hospice was registered as a charitable company limited by guarantee in May 1985. On 22nd November of the same year a public meeting was held and it was agreed to establish a hospice provision in Inverness and in February 1986, the Hospice Appeal Office in the Royal Northern Infirmary was established.

On 9th March 1986 a public appeal was launched with a Gala Performance at Eden Court to raise £500,000 to provide hospice care in the Highlands, and adjacent areas. Prior to this the Committee, which included health care professionals and others from the community in consultation with Highland Health Board had assessed the need and identified the type of service which was felt appropriate.

Through the Highland Health Board, a site for the In Patient Unit was identified next to the RNI, in the house and grounds used originally for the superintendent of the Infirmary, Ness House. This was purchased by the Hospice and plans went ahead to adapt and extend the building. The aim was to provide nursing, medical, spiritual and emotional care for the terminally ill and their families and to enable many patients to remain in their own homes and communities with their family and friends. A further aim was to help develop educational work in the care of the terminally ill and the bereaved throughout the Highlands.

In September 1986 Netley Lodge, the property adjacent to Ness House on Bishop’s Road was purchased and adapted for use as a Day Hospice. The first General Manager, Lyn Forbes, was appointed in October 1986 and in January 1987, Margo Deaves was appointed as the first Matron. In November 1987 Dr Edward Barrington-Ward was appointed as the first medical Director and the Day Hospice opened on the 17th November 1987, able to see up to 12 patients daily.

1988 saw further developments - with Highland Hospice Trading Ltd being established to develop thrift and gift shops with a view to providing secure funding in the future. January 1988 saw the media launch of Ness House extension and the first Macmillan Nurse, Wilma Mair, was appointed in February closely followed by Brian Hunter in May.

29th October 1988 saw the formal opening of Ness House with the first patient being admitted to the In Patient Unit on 28th November 1988.

As the Hospice grew from strength to strength, 30th June 1989 saw a Gala Performance of La Traviata at Eden Court by Scottish Opera in the presence of the Earl and Countess of Inverness who also visited the Hospice on 20th March 1991. This was followed by a visit from HRH Duchess of Kent in January 1993.

In 1994 the first consultant in palliative medicine, Stephen Hutchison, was appointed.  In April, the second extension to the original Ness House opened providing new kitchens, staff changing and dining areas and rooms for use by patient relatives. 1994 also saw the appointment of the first family support worker, Una Smale, as well as the first Chaplain, occupational therapist and physiotherapist.

In October 1994 Highland Hospice was awarded the Investors in People standard which we still hold today, in recognition of the high quality of human resource management at the Hospice, the first UK Hospice to achieve this. In 1995 the Hospice was winner of the non NHS healthcare section of the NHS Personnel/AHHRM, Excellence in Human Resource Management competition and also joint winners of the Quality Partnership Award for Business Excellence. These awards reflected the high standard of patient care being provided by Highland Hospice.

In April 1996 the 10th Anniversary Appeal was launched to raise £1million to build a further extension, housing a new Day Hospice and education suite. Support was received from the National Lottery Charities Board and the target was met two months ahead of schedule. The 10th Anniversary Ball took place in July 1987 at the Brahan estate and in December the 10th Anniversary Service was held in Inverness Cathedral.

1998 saw building work beginning on the Netley Centre Day Hospice and Education Suite which was officially opened by HRH The Princess Royal on 31st August 1999. Our first education facilitator was appointed in June 2000 and, as we achieved publicity in August 2003 when the the Beechgrove Garden team came to visit.  Our second consultant, Jeremy Keen, was appointed in September of this year.

Much has been achieved since 1983 and today Highland Hospice remains the only hospice serving adults with incurable life limiting disease in the Highlands of Scotland, and is widely acknowledged as a centre of palliative care expertise in the region. The Hospice Inpatient Unit is temporarily located in Invergordon Community Hospital with the Day Hospice temporarily located at Laxford House in Cradlehall, Inverness.  The current phase of rebuilding the In Patient Unit will create the next significant chapter in Highland Hospice’s history. 


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