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

The NHS is traditionally viewed as a typically British institution; a symbol of national identity. It has however always been dependent on a migrant workforce whose role has until recently received little attention from historians. Migrant Architects draws on 45 oral history interviews (40 with South Asian GPs who worked through this period) and extensive archival research to offer a radical reappraisal of how the National Health Service was made.

This book is the first history of the first generation of South Asian doctors who became GPs in the National Health Service. Their story is key to understanding the post-war history of British general practice and therefore the development of a British healthcare system where GPs play essential roles in controlling access to hospitals and providing care in community settings.

Imperial legacies, professional discrimination and an exodus of British-trained doctors combined to direct a large proportion of migrant doctors towards work as GPs in industrial areas. In some parts of Britain they made up more than half of the GP workforce. This book documents the structural dependency of British general practice on South Asian doctors. It also focuses on the agency of migrant practitioners and their transformative roles in British society and medicine.

Julian M. Simpson

were affected by this context. I  conclude by arguing that racism and heterophobia are at the heart of the history of British ­general practice. Discrimination and the NHS workforce The health policy expert Oscar Gish, describing the position of overseas doctors in the NHS in a 1969 briefing paper for the Institute of Race Relations entitled Britain and the Immigrant Doctor, noted that ‘the contribution of overseas-​born medical graduates to the various medical specialties varies inversely with the attractiveness to British graduates of particular specialties.’7

in Migrant architects of the NHS
Doctors’ organisations and activist medics
Julian M. Simpson

undoubtedly served to give their members an advantage when it came to developing their careers and profile. The ODA for instance propelled some of its more high-​profile members into prominent positions in British medical politics. Conclusion The fact that large numbers of doctors from the Indian subcontinent settled in Britain in the post-​war period led to the emergence of a range of networks which provided access to opportunities for professional development and information exchange as well as social support. They form an important part of the history of British general

in Migrant architects of the NHS