Obituary: John Scrimgeour

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THE first full-time medical director of the Edinburgh’s Western General Hospitals NHS Trust has died.

John Scrimgeour was an eminent consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist recognised for his research work in the Capital in the field of foetal abnormality diagnosis.

Born in Elgin in 1939, John’s family moved to Hawick in 1950.

He had never seen a rugby ball but living in Hawick meant that playing rugby was not optional and he went on to represent the school XV as a wing forward before leaving to study medicine at Edinburgh University.

He graduated in 1962, prior to marrying Joyce Morrin, then a nurse at Chalmers Hospital, that year.

Following his two pre-registration posts at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, John undertook a six-month residency in the city’s Eastern General Hospital, in neonatal paediatrics and obstetrics and gynaecology. He then decided to enter general practice in Craigmillar and Niddrie in July 1964. His 18 months there were highly formative, both in providing invaluable clinical experience and in influencing his career path.

He helped to treat children born with such abnormalities as spina bifida and this motivated him to pursue a career in obstetrics and gynaecology, with a view to researching the cause and management of such issues.

His surgical skills were developed further under the watchful eye of George McKelvie at Stirling Royal Infirmary before he returned in 1966 to the Eastern General obstetrics and gynaecology unit to posts as senior house officer and then registrar.

He was encouraged to pursue his interest in early pregnancy diagnosis of foetal disorders, including through direct contact with Patrick Steptoe, who was developing the technique of laparoscopy.

He was appointed senior registrar at the Western General Hospital in 1969 and then, from 1970-3, at the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion. There, he completed his early work on the association between alpha feto protein and neural tube defects. He was awarded a grant by the Barbour Watson Trust to develop the technique of foetoscopy, which allowed the foetus to be examined directly using a small fibre-optic telescope.

In 1973, John was appointed consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Western General Hospital, where his research continued and he co-ordinated the significant Edinburgh contribution to a UK-wide study on the risks of mid-trimester amniocentesis to diagnose Downs Syndrome. As a result of his work, the Edinburgh Royal Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians elected him to fellowship in 1987 and 1993 respectively, John having become a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1982.

Following retirement from the NHS in 1998, he and Joyce moved to Perthshire.

A keen golfer he was a member at Bruntsfield, and maintained his social links.

He is survived by Joyce and also by his children, Jill and Michael, and six grandchildren.