The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

Asian doc­tors ‘cru­cial to early NHS’


South Asian doc­tors were the “lifeblood” of the NHS in its early years and pre­vented a re­cruit­ment cri­sis, a historian has said.

Dr Ju­lian Simp­son, au­thor of Mi­grant Ar­chi­tects Of The NHS, said around 16% of GPs work­ing in the health ser­vice at the end of the 1980s were born in In­dia, Pak­istan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.

The role of doc­tors from the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent be­tween the 1940s and 1980s is ex­plored in a new ex­hi­bi­tion based on the book at the Royal Col­lege of Gen­eral Prac­ti­tion­ers (RCGP) in Lon­don, ahead of the 70th an­niver­sary of the NHS.

“They shaped the field as it trans­formed it­self”

South Asian doc­tors faced “huge ob­sta­cles” af­ter com­ing to the UK, with the Bri­tish med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment “pro­foundly racist at the time”, Dr Simp­son said.

Some job ad­verts were marked for “Bri­tish grad­u­ates” and many mi­grant doc­tors were forced into gen­eral prac­tice in the most de­prived ar­eas of the coun­try, roles con­sid­ered less de­sir­able by home­trained medics.

“By be­com­ing fam­ily doc­tors, South Asian doc­tors pre­vented a GP re­cruit­ment cri­sis,” Dr Simp­son said.

“Through their work, they shaped the field as it trans­formed it­self into the corner­stone of the Bri­tish health­care sys­tem. It’s im­por­tant to also re­mem­ber the NHS was estab­lished to make health­care ac­ces­si­ble to those who could not af­ford it. And for mil­lions of peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly in work­ing-class com­mu­ni­ties across Bri­tain, ac­cess­ing that care meant go­ing to see a GP from the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent.”

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