Aberdeen students in the pre-NHS era received an introduction to general practice during attachments to the Woolmanhill public dispensary as part of their public health teaching. Between 1948 and the creation of the GPTU in 1967, there was no formal teaching in general practice, although many students fixed up short attachments to north-east general practices on their own initiative during vacations.
In 1967, with a grant from the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust, the university decided to create the GPTU and advertised for a director at senior lecturer/reader level. Forty-four applications were received, the majority from senior north-east general practitioners without academic experience. Applicants from outside the area included several already in academic general practice positions. Ian Richardson was appointed from the local department of public health, bringing to the position substantial intellectual skills and a strong academic record in the field of community-based teaching and research.
His appointment heralded the start of a period of substantial and sustained achievement. An undergraduate programme dependent on significant good will from practices throughout the north-east of Scotland was developed, as was Aberdeen's vocational training scheme which, with twelve places each year, was the largest of its kind in the UK. With Ian Buchan, Ian Richardson carried out a major time-and-motion study of the general practice consultation, an idea later repeated for district nurses and health visitors.