Against the Odds: Black and Minority Ethnic Clinicians and Manchester, 1948 to 2009

This is a bit of unashamed self-publicity. Yesterday saw the launch of my new book, co-written with Stephanie Snow, on the history of black and minority ethnic nurses and doctors in Manchester since 1948. The research was commissioned and funded by Manchester Primary Care Trust.

Since its creation in 1948, the National Health Service has relied on workers from overseas to fill its manpower shortages. Thousands of doctors and nurses from all over the world have been recruited to cities such as Manchester to sustain and develop health services.  Against the Odds explores the twin themes of health workforce planning and discrimination in the NHS in a local setting. Drawing on new historical research and oral history, we weaved together the personal experiences of BME clinicians in Manchester with the wider histories of labour shortages, migration, discrimination, and the history of medicine and the NHS in the city over the last sixty years.

The book shows how some of the barriers faced by these professionals, especially doctors, have been overcome but it also reveals the problems that persist in Manchester and beyond which see BME clinicians overrepresented in the lower grades of the professions, underrepresented in senior managerial positions, and working in the less popular specialisms. Today, around thirty per cent of clinicians in the NHS are from black and minority ethnic groups. However, fewer than ten per cent of NHS senior managers and only one per cent of NHS chief executives have a minority ethnic background. We identify several areas at local, national, and global levels where action could make a difference to improving equity and opportunity for BME clinicians, ranging from the collection of longitudinal data to anticipate impending manpower crises and to better map the recruitment, retention, and career progression of BME clinicians, to extending access to support systems and mentoring to all BME NHS staff.

The book is creating quite a bit of interest. We were on BBC Radio Manchester last week promoting the book, first on the Indus show and then on the Heather Stott morning show. And all the signs from the launch suggest that the project has some legs in it yet. Fingers crossed!


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