Profiles on:
Dr Nisar-ul-Haque – GP in Sandwell
Dr Uzma Haque – GP in Dagenham

Throughout South Asian Heritage Month, we have been speaking with colleagues who made their Journey of Empire during the 1960s.

First-generation immigrants arriving in the country faced some challenging times. They often came with very little in terms of personal possessions, encountered language barriers and adjusted to the unknown in a new country. They searched for jobs, bought new houses and worked long hours – all to set up a new life for themselves and their families.

Due to staff shortages in the newly formed NHS, more than 18,000 doctors and medical staff travelled to England from former British Colonies including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Some were already qualified, whilst others came over at a younger age and then went onto pursue a career with the NHS.

We spoke with some colleagues to learn about their experiences when they moved across to start their life in a new country.

In the second of our profiles, we have been speaking with Dr Nisar-ul-Haque who made his journey from Pakistan in 1974 and his daughter, Dr Uzma Haque.

Dr Haque’s (father) – GP in Sandwell

What do you remember about growing up?

I remember my childhood in Karachi, Pakistan as being very pleasant and everyone was friendly. I really enjoyed spending time with my father and mother as I was an only child. I had many friends and had some fun times growing up.

Why did you move to England and can you describe your journey?

After qualifying in Medicine, I travelled alone to the UK at the age of 27, as I wanted to see what was different here. After spending some time in Libya, I decided to move to England. The journey wasn’t very difficult, visas were easy to get and at the time, there weren’t exams for doctors who had qualified overseas.

What were your first impressions of England?

England and the NHS were very welcoming and I was very happy here, but I missed my family. As two of my best friends moved with me, I had company and didn’t feel alone. I made many friends quickly and enjoyed my time when I came here.  I was still able to go back home to see my parents, but obviously not as often as I wanted.

What inspired you to study Medicine?

My father was my role model as he was also a Doctor.  I used to spend my holidays with him, visiting and working in deprived villages around the inner Sindh districts which I really enjoyed. So from a very young age, I had made up my mind to study Medicine.

How did you find working for the NHS when you first started and how have things changed?

Initially I was working in Secondary Care and I enjoyed the friendly and busy work routines. We had time to spend with patients and even had Christmas meals with them in the wards. I have been in General Practice since 2000, which comes with a different kind of pressure, but I still wouldn’t change my career even if I had the chance to start over again.

What has been the highlight of your career?

I was very interested in respiratory disease and had the chance to study Tuberculosis and chest diseases in Wales. After achieving this Diploma, I studied tropical infectious diseases at the London Hospital for Tropical Diseases. Achieving these Diplomas were some of the best moments in my life.

If you could pass on a message to the second and third generations of South Asians living in this country, what would it be?

The world’s your oyster. Fully embrace life as it’s too short. Do what you enjoy, no matter what the hardships. The path paves its way as you start walking and I wish everyone all the best.

Dr Uzma Haque – GP in Dagenham

Can you tell us about the influence that your father had on your career?

My father always has a positive outlook on life. I have never seen him upset or feeling down. He faces the issues and gets on with it. He has always encouraged me and if it wasn’t for his insistence, I probably wouldn’t have realised my potential. I love the way he is so proud when he hears what I’m involved with at work.

How did you encourage local communities to stay safe during the pandemic?

As a GP partner, I sent several messages to patients about the importance of COVID-19 vaccines and how to book them. I spoke with our Patient Participation Group for their support and proactively rang patients who were hard to reach or felt digitally excluded. I attended several roadshows in town centres and religious sites, as well as made TV appearances and was interviewed on radio programmes. These were mainly focused on the importance of getting vaccine, but also emphasised the importance of personal safety measures. I also recorded several videos for NHS websites and gave health advice and information for local newspapers.

What has been the highlight of your career?

From a very young age I was determined to become a teacher, but I realised that my passion was helping others when they are unwell. I soon realised that I wanted to study Medicine. In school, I was told that it’s too competitive and I should think about other careers, but I stuck with what I wanted to do. Becoming a GP has been the greatest highlight of my career. To see my whole family in the audience as I received my Certificate of Membership was exquisite.

What health advice would you give to the South Asian community living in this country?

As a Primary Care Physician, my work is to keep people healthy and this is only possible if we work in partnership with our patients. The NHS has brilliant pathways to keep patients healthy and we should use them as soon as they become available. Examples are NHS health checks, cervical screening, COVID-19 and flu vaccines. As South Asians, we have a higher presence of certain conditions such as high blood pressure and Diabetes. These conditions don’t need to be dangerous if they are treated in a timely manner. If you have any concerns, you should definitely discuss it with a health professional, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, health care assistants and reception staff. We are all here to help you to stay healthy and to stay safe.

You can find out about the different
types of screening, information about vaccinations and other useful health advice on

Profile on Dr Bal Sidhu – GP in Nuneaton, Warwickshire

As South Asian Heritage Month celebrates its 3rd year, the theme for 2022 is ‘Journeys of Empire’.

Although the migration of South Asians to the UK goes back many centuries, numbers grew significantly during the 50s, 60s and 70s. Many travelled here directly from South Asia, whilst others (known as ‘twice migrants’) came through countries that they had settled in throughout Africa.

Whilst some families made their own choice to move to the UK, some had no other alternative but to leave the country they knew as home. This included almost 60,000 Asians who were expelled from Uganda in 1972 and had to rebuild their lives in the UK.

Many South Asians went onto work for the NHS and we spoke with some colleagues to learn about their experiences of moving and settling down in a new country.

In the first of our profiles, Dr Bal Sidhu, a GP in Nuneaton, Warwickshire speaks about his own Journey of Empire during the late 1960s.

What do you remember about when you were growing up?

I was born in a small farming village in a rural area of Punjab, India. We lived a simple and humble life and I remember having an enjoyable, happy and carefree childhood. We lived in our own little bubble and I didn’t really know much about the rest of the world at the time.

Why did you move to England and can you describe your journey?

My uncle from England was visiting us and suggested I go to live with him to better my education and prospects. As my school was quite basic without many facilities, my parents agreed and on 25 February 1968, I moved to a new country. At the age of 12, I was very excited to be flying on a plane and travelling to a big city. But it was also very frightening, especially as I was leaving my parents, brothers and sister and there was a fear of the unknown.

What were your first impressions of England?

There were only 2 Asian families around us when I first arrived in West Bromwich. I didn’t speak, read or write English so I struggled initially as I was thrown in at the deep end. Kids can be hurtful and intimidating, especially when you don’t understand what they’re saying. I had no choice but to learn English very quickly and became close friends with a Punjabi speaking boy who helped me to get by.

What inspired you to study Medicine?

A couple of boys that I looked up to went onto study Medicine, so I decided that could also be the career path for me. I went Swansea University to study Biochemistry and three years later, I was more educated, academically minded and making wiser decisions. I decided to study Medicine and stayed in Wales for a while after qualifying. After gaining more experience in the Birmingham area and in Edgware Hospital, I began working as a GP in Warwickshire in 1988 and have been there ever since. I will always be very grateful to West Bromwich Borough Council who supported me financially with a student grant. It’s thanks to their help and support that I went on to become a Doctor.

How did you find working for the NHS when you first started and how have things changed?

Working in hospitals in the 1980s was very different to how it is now. The workload and pressure felt much less at the time, as we had more resources and staff available. Technology, diagnostics and equipment have all changed vastly over the years, but this means the actual cost of care has spiralled in what we know as a free healthcare service.

What influence did you have on your sons’ careers?
I am proud to say that both of my sons followed in my footsteps to pursue careers in the Medical field. My eldest studied Medicine in Oxford and shortly after qualifying, he went on to gain some consultancy experience. He learnt about pharmaceutical and drug development then decided to set up his own pharmaceutical company. Working alongside Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, he has been involved in initiating drug trials for the treatment of COVID-19. My younger son has just completed his Masters in Immunology, so the healthcare industry is definitely in our blood.

Can you tell us about other work you have done to promote Asian culture?
I have been involved in charity work, including arranging a Punjabi music video and concert for youngsters to say to stay away from drugs. We also raised money for the Gujarat Earthquake appeal in the past. Whilst studying in Cardiff, everyone was doing the Conga at parties, so I thought we needed something similar for Asian parties. This inspired me to write a song called ‘Rail Gaddi’ which has been played at celebrations for the last 35 years and even featured in the Bend it Like Beckham soundtrack. I have also written over 80 songs which have been published in a couple of books. Keeping our culture close to our hearts is very important, no matter where we live.

How did you encourage local communities to stay safe during the pandemic?
As we all know, there has been extra pressure on the NHS over the last 2-3 years. As GPs, we did our best to support our patients and I was interviewed several times for local radio stations throughout the Midlands. We spoke about the importance of following Government guidance to prevent the spread of infection. We encouraged people to have COVID-19 vaccines, reiterating it was safe and the best way to protect ourselves. We passed on advice about mental health issues during lockdown with self-care tips and who to contact for help. We delivered shows in Punjabi and Hindi, as well as English to make sure we had good coverage for listeners in the West Midlands area.

What message would you give to South Asians living in this country?
As a doctor, my message will naturally be about leading healthy, happy lives. It’s my duty to promote ‘prevention is better than cure’. It’s important we all attend our routine screening appointments, as picking something up early saves lives. Although diabetes and high blood pressure are common in South Asian communities, we can improve our chances of better health by educating ourselves and making lifestyle changes. It is far more difficult to treat and manage conditions later on in life. The same applies to vaccinations – having COVID-19 and flu vaccines means we are less likely to be hospitalised or die from these infections. It’s equally important for children to have their regular immunisations throughout the years. And finally, if a doctor advises you to take medication and have regular check-ups, please make sure you follow this up. We can all live longer and have fewer problems if we take responsibility for our own health.