Opinion | Friday, 22nd June 2018
NHS70: The Windrush generation played a vital role in the NHS
Faye Bruce, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, shares her thoughts on why we should celebrate the contributions of migrants
The SS Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury docks on 22 June 1948 - the same year the NHS was established - carrying passengers from the Caribbean, who were invited by Britain to assist with post-war reconstruction. The Windrush generation went on to play a major role in the development of the NHS.
Faye Bruce, Senior Lecturer in Nursing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Chair for the Caribbean and Health Network Greater Manchester, discussed why it is so important to celebrate the part they played:
“Ever since their arrival from the Caribbean in 1948, the Windrush generation has made a significant contribution to address workforce shortages and build post-war Britain. Many of the migrants from the Windrush era took up the invitation to work in the newly established National Health Service (NHS) and for the last 70 years have helped to shape the NHS that so many of us love and cherish.
“The Windrush generation is incredibly important to the functioning and development of the NHS. Those from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds make up a fifth of the NHS workforce, particularly represented within medical and nursing roles.
“As we move towards leaving the European Union, on 29th March 2019, the NHS is again facing workforce challenges with a decrease in NHS recruitment from the EU. We again see the UK government relaxing entry to the UK for countries outside the EU, and especially the Commonwealth, to address medical and nursing workforce shortages.
“In 2018, we celebrate the contributions of migrants to the UK that has in no doubt helped to build a multicultural and rich NHS. We want to take this opportunity to reflect upon how staff from BME backgrounds are enabled, empowered and offered equality of opportunity as we drive diversity and inclusion within and across our public services.
Many of the migrants from the Windrush era took up the invitation to work in the newly established NHS and for the last 70 years have helped to shape the NHS that so many of us love and cherish.
“Those from BME backgrounds now represent 14% of the population in England and Wales and our health and care services need to reflect that diversity in the provision of culturally appropriate care at all levels of the NHS and Care system. This is incredibly important as many of our BME staff are unrepresented at senior levels of the health and care system.
“It is important to recognise and celebrate the positive contribution of those from the Windrush era. This is crucial, especially during this time when so many of the human rights of our Windrush migrants (who saw themselves as British) have been affected and impacted by the political incompetency resulting in ill-health, lack of access to care and support, detentions and threatened deportation to the Caribbean.
“As we celebrate, we must never forget the contribution that the Windrush generation has made to the building of Britain and the NHS. During this time and for decades to come, we seek to build upon the legacy of the Windrush era whilst remembering those that have gone before us and those that are still with us that need to be healed and cared for as they cared for us when they arrived on the shores of United Kingdom 70 years ago.”