Libby Wilson

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 19 May 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2854
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. London
  1. annecgulland{at}

GP whose work in family planning and palliative care was driven by the desire to give patients choice and control over their lives

“We were concerned with helping individual families have the number of children they wanted,” wrote Libby Wilson in her memoir of life as a family planning doctor in Sheffield and Glasgow.1

Family planning and the 408

Being able to give patients, especially women, control over their bodies was the thread running throughout Wilson’s career. She began working as a GP in Sheffield in the early 1950s and, like many female GPs, was drawn into family planning work. All that was available were “various rubber goods”1 and spermicides, unreliable methods of contraception as Wilson was aware from personal experience—by the time she was 32 she had had three babies in less than two years and would have three more.

Wilson worked with the Family Planning Association, which in 1964 voted to restrict its services to women who were either married or about to be married. Unhappy at this decision and spurred on by the success of a clinic for young unmarried women in London, Wilson and a few other female GPs decided to set up something similar in Sheffield.

The 408 clinic opened its doors …

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