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Obituary: Dr Ronnie Graham, first general manager of Tayside Health Board

Dr Ronnie Graham.
Dr Ronnie Graham.

Dr Ronald Graham, the first general manager of Tayside Health Board, has died aged 90.

He will also be remembered as the man who introduced the community health index number (CHI) to Tayside in the 1970s.

This system, which unifies health records while retaining confidentiality, was later adopted across Scotland.

Dr Graham also turned down the post of chief medical officer for Scotland because it would have meant being away from his family and Dundee.


He was born in Airdrie in October, 1931 to engineer Thomas Graham and Galashiels-born Helen, nee Cairns.

Ronnie attended Airdrie Academy where he met his future wife Christine and became school captain.

A talented athlete, Ronnie held the Scottish schools national 440-yard track record.

He formed a lifelong friendship at school with Ian McMillan who went on to play for Airdrie, Rangers and Scotland.


In 1949, Ronald became the first from his father’s side of the family to go to university. He studied medicine at Glasgow until 1955 and during his final year became student clinical assistant at Duke Street Hospital, Glasgow.

A year later be became a house officer at Duke Street and worked closely with surgical registrar Dr Dal Peebles.

Ronald and Christine were engaged in 1958 and married at Clarkson Parish Church in Airdrie in 1959 before moving to Bo’ness where Ronald began in general practice.

They moved to Falkirk in 1961 when a post as registrar in geriatric medicine arose and son Colin, the current chairman of Thorntons Law LLP, was born that year.


In 1963, Ronald took up his first management position, at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and the family moved to live in Corstorphine.

Later that year daughter Rhona, formerly a paediatric physiotherapist now working as a senior support worker with Options in Life in Fife, was born and Ronald combined working with studying for a diploma in social medicine at Edinburgh University.

The move to Dundee for the family came in 1969 when Ronnie was appointed deputy senior administrative medical officer for the Eastern Regional Hospital Board.


Son, Alistair, was born two years later at Maryfield Hospital in Dundee after Ronnie had been promoted to senior medical administrative officer.

Alistair also works in the NHS, as associate director of digital and information at NHS Fife.

When Tayside Health Board was formed he successfully applied for the post of chief administrative medical officer based at Vernonholme, Riverside, Dundee.


Against the trend of appointing managers rather than doctors to run health authorities, Ronnie successfully applied to become Tayside Health Board’s first general manager in 1985.

He was proud to be the only doctor in mainland Scotland to hold such a position.

Ronnie remained in post until his retirement in the summer of 1993 and had the honour of receiving the CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours of 1991.

Over many years, Ronnie and Christine were members of Park Church, one of the constituent parts of Stobswell Parish Church, where Ronnie was an elder.


In retirement, Ronnie joined Dundee Rotary Club and during lockdown used Zoom to attend meetings.

His pioneering work to introduce CHI numbers to Tayside followed a visit to Sweden. He adapted it for use in Tayside and its success led to the 2006 Scotland-wide introduction.


Ronnie also bowled at Broughty Ferry Bowling Club and indoor at Arbroath, was a member of the Bonnetmakers, served on the Court of Dundee University and several national medical committees.

He was predeceased by Christine in 2018 but continued to live independently until moving to South Grange Care Home in Monifieth at the end of January after a few weeks in Ninewells following a fall.

He is survived by his three children, six grandchildren, including the current Scotland rugby internationalist Jamie Ritchie, and three great-grandchildren.

You can read the family’s announcement here.

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