From ‘pairs of hands’ to family doctors
in Migrant architects of the NHS
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The professional options of South Asian doctors who decided to stay in Britain were limited, notably as a result of racism and heterophobia. The presence of significant numbers of South Asian doctors in general practice in industrial and inner-city areas in nevertheless partly ascribable to their agency: they actively decided to remain in Britain and forge careers as GPs even though this was not the type of work they envisaged doing initially. The entry of a significant number of South Asian doctors into the profession of general practice was not officially orchestrated or even encouraged at a national level by the British government or the leaders of the medical profession. The individual choices to become GPs made by thousands of South Asian doctors had a major structural impact on the development of British primary care. By the early 1990s, around 30% of GPs in major cities such as Birmingham and Manchester had qualified in South Asia and in some parts of the country (for instance Walsall in the Midlands) South-Asian trained doctors made up more than half of the NHS’ GP population.

Migrant architects of the NHS

South Asian doctors and the reinvention of British general practice (1940s– 1980s)


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