Intended for healthcare professionals


Pamela Margaret Ashurst

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 23 June 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m2427
  1. Margaret Orr,
  2. Carry Selley

Pamela Margaret Ashurst was a generous doctor who inspired generations of women therapists and pioneered short term and group psychotherapy in the NHS.

Born Pamela Lewis in Stourport-on-Severn, she fulfilled her father’s childhood ambition—thwarted by a bout of tuberculosis during grammar school entrance examinations—of becoming a doctor. The eldest of two daughters, she was the first member of the family to attend university, and among the youngest of 18 women in her year’s intake of 58 students at Bristol medical school.

Pamela met her future husband, Ron, on a badminton court in freshers’ week, and married between the two parts of her finals. She stayed to start postdoctoral research in gastroenterology, but found herself “more interested in the patient experience that by what happened in the lab,” she recalled. In the early 1960s Pamela was recruited by Sir Martin Roth, first president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, to set up and chair a new working party of trainees, which became the Association of Psychiatrists in Training (APIT). She thought that Sir Martin had sought “an unassuming girl from the provinces” for the new venture.

While still a trainee, Pamela received a BMA award for a film she made about the care of people with …

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