Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) are the unsung heroes and heroines of the NHS. They work alongside doctors, nurses, and other staff to provide a wide range of healthcare services, from diagnosis and treatment to rehabilitation and prevention.
AHPs play a vital role in health and care sectors. The unique skills of each of the 14 professions, alongside their collective expertise help to improve the care patient receive, reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, and save lives.
In this the 75th anniversary year of Windrush, it is fitting that pioneering allied health professionals (AHPs) who formed part of the Windrush story in the UK between 1948 and 1972 are given the recognition they deserve. There is an unquestionable legacy of AHPs from the Caribbean, a relatively small part of the Commonwealth, in rebuilding post-war Britain.
I arrived in the UK as an 11-year-old Windrush child in 1965. Although AHPs had been in existence for many years before then, and had been practicing within the Caribbean, my knowledge of them was extremely limited. My decision to become an AHP was through sheer chance. When one of my school friends said she wanted to become a physiotherapist, I was struck by what she said they did.
In the ensuing years following my registration as a Chartered Physiotherapist, it became increasingly apparent that the journeys and stories of Caribbeans within physiotherapy, the largest AHP professional group, and those of other Caribbean AHPs within the UK have remained largely hidden.
Chiropodists, dietitians, medical laboratory technicians, occupational therapists, radiographers, and remedial gymnasts, the other featured professions at that time, have received limited acknowledgment of their roles. AHPs began to seek state registration in the 1960s because of the newly introduced Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act (PSM) in October 1960, but it is unknown how many of these professionals were from the Caribbean.
Records of ethnicity and related data of the AHPs within the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine (CPSM), now known as Health and Care Professions Council, was scant. Although the documentation is improving, information remains incomplete because the giving and sharing of this data remains voluntary. However, what is known is that although relatively few therapists may have left the Caribbean as qualified AHPs, a significant number of individuals joined the call to rebuild the ‘mother country’ after the war and later trained in various schools around the UK to become qualified practitioners. Total registrations for AHPs by the CPSM in 1964 numbered 28,459 (Barclay, 1994) and there is little or no information of registrants who were from the Caribbean.
Alongside the call for more nurses and doctors to fill vacancies in the NHS during the Windrush era, there was also a call and dependency on the arrival of AHPs from overseas to fill jobs in the rapidly growing NHS.
Contributing to the difficulty in identifying AHPs from the Caribbean in the 1948-72 era, it is likely that Caribbean born AHPs who migrated to the UK as minors that following graduation, many would have either returned to the Caribbean or alternatively settled to work overseas. Thus, the whereabouts of Windrush AHPs now remain somewhat obscure and their place in history continues to fall under the radar in according the honour due to them. Sadly, a few may also have died without gaining recognition they too deserved.
In this 2023 commemorative year of Windrush and the 75th anniversary year of the NHS, the UK is indebted to historic AHP figures and champions of healthcare who helped to build its health and social care services.
Therefore, we pay tribute to:
Allied health professionals from the Windrush era, 1948-72
- Alexa Scott – Dietitian
- Barbara Hamilton – Dietitian
- Denise Sterling – Occupational Therapist
- Elizabeth Yates – Occupational Therapist
- Leila Ghartey – Physiotherapist
- Audrey Grant – Radiographer
- Oretha Gaskin – Radiographer
- Siburnie Ramharry – Dietitian
- Victor Eastmond – Radiographer
- Yvonne Batson – Dietitian
In addition, a special tribute to all AHPs who arrived from the Caribbean to the UK between 1948 and 1972, including those who have since died. Their welcome and contributions were often tainted by discrimination and racism, but they rose above these barriers to pave the way, build solid foundations for those who followed, and for some, become senior leaders within their professions.
If you are an AHP or you are aware of any AHP of Caribbean heritage who practiced in the UK between 1948 and 1972, or have any further information about the ones listed above, please get in touch: email@example.com
Barclay, J. (1994) In Good Hands -The History of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy 1894-1994. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann.