Dr Khan is most likely to see you now: Asian surname is most common among doctors with Patel in second

  • Muslim surnames Ahmed and Ali also make the top ten in 6th and 9th place
  • Smith and Jones are most common names of British origin in 4th and 5th
  • Nearly 35,000 of the 270,000 registered doctors trained in India or Pakistan
  • Britain saw influx of Asian doctors in 60s and 70s amid NHS staffing crisis

The surname Khan is the most common surname among doctors, according to a top ten list

Next time you’re treated at hospital, chances are you’ll be thanking a Dr Khan.

The Asian name is the most common surname of doctors registered in Britain, according to figures.

Patel – from the Gujarat region of India – was the second most popular, and Muslim surnames Ahmed and Ali also made the top ten list.

Smith and Jones featured on the list as the most common names of British origin. The rest of the list was made up by Williams, Davies, Thomas and Taylor.

But the list does not indicate where the doctor was born or trained. While many will have come from abroad, a high proportion of those with Asian surnames are likely to be the British-born children of immigrants.

The most common first names for male doctors are David, John and Andrew, while for women they are Sarah, Elizabeth and Helen.

There are nearly 270,000 doctors registered with the General Medical Council regulator.

Its figures show more than one third gained their primary qualification outside the UK, with the biggest numbers from India, Pakistan, South Africa and Nigeria.

Nearly 35,000 were trained in India and Pakistan. Since February 2012 there has been an 11 per cent increase in Pakistani-trained doctors registered in Britain, while numbers of Nigerian-qualified doctors have risen 8 per cent.

There has been a 20 per cent increase in Bulgarian-trained doctors, and a 17 per cent rise in Romanian-trained doctors.

But overall the proportion of foreign-trained doctors in Britain has fallen slightly by 1 per cent over 18 months.

Britain saw an influx of Asian doctors in the 1960s and 1970s when the government invited medics from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to solve an NHS staffing crisis.

Since then many have come from other countries, particularly after Labour increased NHS funding from 1997.


Khan - which means ruler or leader - is a surname with Mongolian-Turkic roots which is now mainly found in Islamic communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It is common among the Pashtuns of South-Central Asia, but is also used by Bengalis, Mughals and Muslim Rajputs.

According to the British Surnames database, Khan is the 24th most common surname in the United Kingdom.

In Iran and parts of the Indian subcontinent it is used as an honorific title after a person’s name.


Patel - which means inn keeper - is a surname of northern Indian origin mainly used by Hindu groups whose ancestors belonged to the Landlords community.

The name Patel is found primarily in the Indian state of Gujarat, but is also found in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi.

According to the British Surnames database, it is the eighth most common surname within the UK.

It is the third most common in the Greater London region. 

But in recent years there have been concerns some may have poor language skills and less thorough training. Foreign-trained doctors are also more likely to be struck off than British doctors. Last year 75 per cent of those struck off had been trained overseas.

Doctors from abroad must pass an English language test and the GMC’s Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board test, designed to ensure they have the same level of medical knowledge as UK graduates who have completed their first foundation training year.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: ‘Doctors from all over the world have long come to work in this country and have in many areas kept the NHS going. We owe them a great deal. Our job is to make sure those who gain entry have the knowledge and skills to practise safely here.’


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