The story of The National Health Service is entwined with the story of immigration and the positive impact of immigrants who travelled here to work. From its inception, immigrants played a vital role in building and sustaining the NHS.
Their dedication, skills, and commitment made – and continues to make – an indelible impact on the healthcare system, society, and culture.
When the NHS was founded in 1948, it was quickly clear that a workforce was needed for the healthcare requirements of the nation. Calls were put out to people in former British colonies to come to their ‘Commonwealth Home’. And people responded, from the Caribbean, India, Pakistan, and countries in Africa. They came to seek better and different lives, bringing their cultures, languages, and ideas.
Heavily advertised in local newspapers and daily’s
That they are encouraging for people to come down and work
Nitin Sawhney – Lyrics from Immigrant
My father was one of those. At his medical school in India, there were calls to come to shape the new British National Health Service. Many of his friends from medical college were either already here or joined him here.
My parents often talked of a plane descending into London on a grey December day in 1968. Emerging into a world where they struggled to rent rooms and feel welcomed in a country that did not seem ready to welcome them.
Like my Dad, many became GPs. In 2018 the Royal College of General Practitioners celebrated them in an exhibition: The Migrants Who Shaped The NHS. Until his death in 2019, my father was proud to have spent his career working in a health service that became the envy of the world. Free healthcare for all, no matter who you are.
Today, around 1 in 4 NHS staff were born in another country. Their families often follow them into the NHS. With a staffing crisis in the NHS, clearly, we need immigration to bring trained healthcare professionals to this country as well as training more staff here.
The real story is the ways in which migrants have shaped the story of the NHS and made wonderful and immeasurable contributions to society.
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