Hailing from Jamaica, Barbara moved to England in the 1950s and studied at the University of London. She went on to specialise in electron microscopy and in the 1980s, led central work and several advances in heart and lung transplants for children. Alongside her medical career, she was an active feminist and writer. A number of her plays, poems, short stories and a novella have been published. Her writing is reflective of her lesbian identity and her cultural identity: African, Jewish and Scots.
In the 90s Barbara moved from medical research to developing diversity initiatives in the NHS. She worked as director of equality and diversity at the Department of Health, director of diversity at the Department for Work and Pensions and became the first deputy director of the Centre for Inclusion and Diversity at the School of Health Studies, Bradford University. She also ran her own consultancy.
In 2001, she received an honorary doctorate from Middlesex University, in recognition of her achievements in equality and diversity. Many of her initiatives are actively used within the NHS. Barbara passed away in 2010.
The Barbara Burford Prize at the Young Enigma Awards was created in her honour.