Obituary: Dr Janet Henderson, healthcare pioneer, 88

Janet Henderson

Janet Henderson

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A doctor who offered free treatment to poor families in the Old Town before the NHS was founded has died at the age of 88.

Janet Henderson was born in Edinburgh in 1923 before being raised in London, the daughter of medical officer Andrew Forrest and his wife Mary.

The family lived near Wandsworth Prison and then moved to Leytonstone. Janet was educated at Woodford High School for Girls in Essex.

When the Second World War began, she and her brother Archie were evacuated to Dollar in Clackmannanshire, where they had many relatives.

Janet returned to the Capital to study medicine at Edinburgh University in 1941, the same year she met her future husband, Lindsay, a fellow student.

The couple were introduced during an air raid practice and both graduated in 1946 before Janet began her career at the Northern General and at the Elsie Inglis Memorial maternity hospitals.

In her early years as a qualified doctor, she would visit tenements off the Royal Mile to treat children and their families who couldn’t afford to pay for healthcare.

After Lindsay went to complete his national service in Germany, Janet headed for Canada to undertake an internship in Kingston, Ontario. While they were apart, he proposed over the phone and they reunited to marry in September 1949.

They set up home together in Haddington, East Lothian, where Janet trained as a GP – one of the first to do so under the fledgling National Health Service.

It wasn’t long before they were on the move again, temporarily to Inverness before Lindsay landed a partnership with a doctor in Croydon, London.

Their daughters – Gillian and Fiona – had been born by 1955 when the couple began drawing up plans to emigrate to Canada. But they were instead tempted by an offer Lindsay received for a job in Grantown-on-Spey, in the Highlands, at a practice Janet joined two years later.

Son Peter was born in 1959, adding to a busy life, both at home and at work.

Janet prided herself on developing a detailed knowledge of her patients, and was always willing to make house calls. Their surgery merged with another practice in 1972, with the couple playing a pivotal role in building the Grantown Health Centre.

Five years later Janet was appointed regional adviser for general practice in the Highlands. She held that role – based at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness – until 1983, a couple of years before her retirement.

Away from work, she enjoyed skiing and sailing as well as travelling. She also developed a talent for painting and was a strong supporter of many community organisations.

Janet was widowed in 2009 and is survived by her three children and five grandchildren.