A chronic crisis of time: British family doctors, social democratic welfare and NHS general practice, 1948–1966

Activity: Talks and presentationsConference presentations


In 1965, thousands of British family doctors voted to resign from the NHS as part of collective contract negotiations between their professional representatives and the Ministry for Health. The threat was staved off by an agreement between the government and British Medical Association known as the Family Doctor Charter. Doctors reflecting on NHS history have seen this Charter as central to a revitalization of British general practice.

Family doctors’ struggles for a new contract in the mid-1960s have often been positioned as a conflict over improved pay and conditions. However, in this paper we suggest that they were also a conflict over professional autonomy. Specifically, over time.

NHS general practice promised round-the-clock care for all, from cradle to grave. This formed part of a social democratic promise for health services that ensured access to universal and comprehensive healthcare. It also reflected a carefully cultivated image of general practice as a distinct, personal form of practice. However, general practice required general practitioners to provide this care. Therefore, in reality these social democratic promises created a feeling of temporal crisis and insufficiency among GPs, which they sought to manage both organizationally and politically. Exploring this mid-century health service crisis as a battle over time provides not just new insight into the temporal life of general practice, but also a broader view of the temporal politics of social democratic welfare in Britain.
Period1. Sept 2023
Event titleEAHMH Conference 2023
Event typeConference
LocationOslo, NorwayShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Temporalities
  • Health
  • History
  • General Practice