A GP and his family's selfless 70 years of devotion to caring for the health of an Outer Hebridean island is to to be recognised with a plaque in his memory.

Dr Alexander MacLeod, from Lewis, delivered most of the babies on North Uist from the time he set up his practice in 1932, where he stayed until 1974, helped by his GP wife Julia. He was succeeded by his son John, who served until 2000.

Next week, the MacLeod family will be remembered on a hill on North Uist with the unveiling of a stainless steel plaque on a black granite plinth.

The memorial will be unveiled by Dr John Gillies, chairman of the Royal College Of General Practitioners in Scotland, who is a native of North Uist and was delivered by Alexander MacLeod.

Dr Gillies said John and Alec MacLeod were well respected fellows of the Royal College of GPs. Dr Julia, Alec's wife, had also served for many years as a GP, standing in for her husband when he was visiting patients on Berneray, Baleshare or other small islands around North Uist.

Dr Gillies said: "Dr Alec was usually known as 'an dotair mor' (the big doctor) because of his height and bearing, or 'Zadoc' (a nickname acquired as a university student in a reference to Zadok, a Levite priest in the Bible in the time of King David and Solomon).

"Dr Alec was a man of great observational powers and stamina and cared for his patients 24 hours a day through a time when most had no transport, no telephones and no electricity, visiting on foot and sometimes on horseback.

"He delivered many of the children born on the island and had a formidable reputation as an obstetrician.

"He was responsible for the first air ambulance flight to the Western Isles in the 1930s when he arranged for an aircraft to take a patient in Glasgow who was too infirm to travel by land and sea back home to Clachan in Uist. That patient was my great uncle, Reverend Calum Gillies, and the flight is commemorated in a memorial cairn beside the one to be unveiled to the MacLeods."

"All the MacLeods understood the true meaning of service, and of supporting communities as well as individuals, something we are having to rediscover today in general practice as we try to integrate health and social care in Scotland.

" They exemplified throughout their professional lives the spirit of the motto of RCGP - Cum scientia caritas, or science with compassion."

He said Dr Macleod was originally one of the doctors funded by the Highlands and Islands Medical Service established 100 years ago.

This transformed rural health provision 35 years before the establishment of the National Health Service.

Before the Medical Service there had been concern about the state of medical provision in the Highlands and Islands. There were reports of poultry buried as treatment for neurological conditions, uncertified deaths, do it yourself child delivery; and a handful of doctors and nurses to cover vast areas of the country.

When doctors did arrive they often didn't stay long. The island of Papa Westray in Orkney had 13 doctors between 1895 and 1914.

Eventually there was sufficient public concern for a comprehensive inquiry into healthcare provision in the Highland and Islands to be announced in 1912. It was chaired by Sir John Dewar, Liberal MP for Inverness and son of the founder of Dewar's whisky.

The Dewar committee report led to the setting up of the Highlands and Islands Medical Service in 1913 with a Treasury grant of £42,000 .

Doctors would have a basic income but could continue to treat private patients. Fees were set at minimal levels but any who could not pay were still treated.

It provided a house, telephone, car or motor boat and locum cover. By 1929 there were 175 nurses, one on St Kilda, and 160 doctors in 150 practices. Stornoway had its first surgeon in 1924, Wick in 1931, Shetland and Orkney by 1934.