Norman Horne, consultant physician

DR NORMAN Horne, a consultant physician with a high national and international reputation, died at the age of 86 on 5 December, 2004.

Horne qualified in medicine in Edinburgh in 1940 and joined the medical service of the RAF in 1941. He served as medical officer to operational units in the UK, Africa and South East Asia, later as lecturer in malariology, and ultimately Commanding Officer, of the RAE School of Hygiene in Singapore.

After demobilisation, he further trained at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Southfield Sanatorium. In 1952, he was appointed consultant chest physician at the City Hospital, Edinburgh and honorary senior lecturer at Edinburgh University.

His first challenge was to join a group of young Edinburgh consultants in coping with the horrific epidemic of tuberculosis then afflicting Edinburgh and Scotland. He took on a heavy clinical burden of lung tuberculosis but also became the group’s main consultant in non-pulmonary tuberculosis. He played a full part in the group’s co-operative research, co-ordinating a Scottish national controlled trial, carrying out some personal research on renal tuberculosis. The group pioneered the first use of triple chemotherapy, using all the three new drugs together. They were then astonished to find that they were curing virtually all new patients with lung tuberculosis. Formerly, 50 per cent of these would have died. Moreover, when the new treatment was given to all new patients, in or out of hospital, the previous steadily rising incidence of tuberculosis in Edinburgh was converted within three years to a dramatic 59 per cent fall.

As no-one else was getting such results, the Edinburgh reports were at first received with scepticism. Horne played a full part in seeking to persuade colleagues in the UK and abroad of the value of the new treatment. Written with the late Ian Ross, his book on the drug treatment of tuberculosis later went into seven editions and was read all over the world. He published many scientific papers and chapters in books. He advised in South Africa, Libya and Singapore. He became chairman of the European Region of the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

After his retirement, in 1982, he was asked by a British charity, with two colleagues, to produce a comprehensive book Clinical Tuberculosis, to be written in simple English for workers in the Third World with very few resources and where tuberculosis was still an overwhelming problem. This book has gone into two English editions and, so far, editions in 21 other languages.

With the decrease in tuberculosis, Horne extended his work to other respiratory diseases with equal success. In view of his administrative ability and skills in man-management, his colleagues at the City Hospital persuaded him to become physician superintendent (1962-74), an extensive additional unpaid burden. His high reputation led to his election as president of the Scottish Thoracic Society and then president of the British Thoracic Association, he also chaired its research committee for some years. He chaired several NHS committees. including a Scottish tuberculosis working party (1979-83).

In 1966, he was invited to spend a year in Baroda, India, as visiting professor of medicine and leader of the Edinburgh group as part of the World Health Organisation-sponsored link between the Edinburgh and Baroda Medical Schools.

While retired he was also asked to chair Chest and Stroke Scotland, a major charity which continued to do steadily increasing work in sponsoring major social welfare, education and research.

In spite of his outstanding record of achievement, Horne remained the most modest of men. He was motivated by a deep religious faith. (He was an Elder in Greenbank Church which also initiated and staffed the visitors’ caf at the City Hospital.) He did all this so quietly, with the minimum of fuss and unfailing good humour. His patients, his colleagues, his junior medical staff in training, his secretaries, his nurses were all devoted to him. He faced up to his final long, disabling illness with unfailing courage, patience and cheerfulness. His wife, Barbara, predeceased him by three months. He leaves four sons and several grandchildren.