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.”