'Our NHS workers born overseas should be thanked'

Student midwives and nurses stage a protest over the scrapping of bursaries outside the Department o

Student midwives and nurses stage a protest over the scrapping of bursaries outside the Department of Health in 2015 - Credit: PA Images

The House of Commons library reports that 13.8% of current NHS staff were born outside the UK.

Add to this the second and third generation descendants of migrants – especially those from the Commonwealth (Windrush etc) and our dependence on "foreign" health workers to care for us is obvious. This is certainly true in the hospitals that serve Haringey.

These "foreign" health workers are, also, bearing the brunt of the pandemic. A report from the King's Fund shows that 64% of health worker deaths from Covid-19 deaths are BAME staff.

Vivek Lehal, Haringey Stand-Up to Racism (HSTUR)

Vivek Lehal says he government has waged a campaign to deny the existence of institutional racism - Credit: Vivek Lehal

And yet, Baroness (Dido) Harding has made a point of attacking this group of workers in her bid to be the new chief executive of the NHS. Leaving aside her spectacular failure to deliver the test-and-trace project (costing us £37 billion), this Tory peer is following a well-used path by members of the government: when in trouble play the race card.

The NHS has severe staff shortages – around 10% in nursing according to Nursing Times. As it has done many times before, the NHS has looked overseas for the health workers needed to maintain our care. Perhaps Baroness Harding could have opposed the withdrawal of the bursary for training nurses if she is so exercised by an over reliance on “foreign” health workers.

So, apart from being blatantly racist, Harding's apparent aim to introduce a hostile environment for "foreign" health workers is likely to drive vacancies up as staff decide to leave and increase the strain on an already over stretched NHS.

I, for one, am grateful to all our health workers, wherever they were born and whatever their skin colour, and even more so in this pandemic.

Vivek Lehal is from Haringey Stand up to Racism.