Migrant architects of the NHS

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

By Julian Simpson

Migrant architects of the NHS


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-7849-9130-2
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: February 2018
  • BIC Category: History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Social & cultural history, History of medicine, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Emigration & Immigration, HISTORY / Social History, MEDICAL / History, Society & social sciences / Migration, immigration & emigration, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Medicine / History of medicine
  • Series: Social Histories of Medicine


Migrant architects of the NHS draws on forty-five oral history interviews and extensive archival research to offer a radical reappraisal of how the National Health Service was made. It tells the story of migrant South Asian doctors who became general practitioners in the NHS. Imperial legacies, professional discrimination and an exodus of UK-trained doctors combined to direct these doctors towards work as GPs in some of the most deprived parts of the UK. In some areas, they made up over half of the general practitioner workforce. The NHS was structurally dependent on them and they shaped British society and medicine through their agency. Aimed at students and academics with interests in the history of immigration, immigration studies, the history of medicine, South Asian studies and oral history. It will also be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about how Empire and migration have contributed to making Britain what it is today.


'Easy to follow and highly recommended, Julian Simpson's book provides a clear and comprehensive account of this suddenly very topical slice of history, and does exactly what he set out to do - writes migrants back into the history of the NHS.'
Anjna Harrar, British Journal of General Practice, August 2018

'The detailed individual narratives, and the author's meticulous historical and political analysis, offer a model for making sense of medical migration.'
John Launer, Postgraduate Medical Journal


Julian M. Simpson is an Independent Scholar and a member of the committee of the Oral History Society


Introduction: writing the history of the 'International' Health Service
Part I: Healthcare and migration in Britain during the post-war period
1. The making of a cornerstone
2. Empire, migration and the NHS
Part II: The colonial legacy, racism and the staffing of surgeries
3. The empire of the mind and medical migration
4. Discrimination and the development of general practice
5. From 'pairs of hands' to family doctors
Part III: Shaping British medicine and British society
6. 'The more you did, the more they depended on you': memories of practice on the periphery
7. Beyond the surgery boundaries: doctors' organisations and activist medics
8. Adding to the mosaic of British general practice
Conclusion: Historicising a 'revolution'

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