Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Say something

It burns. It absolutely sears a mark in you- and if you haven't experienced it, you will never ever understand it. Doesn't matter how many equality and diversity courses you do, you just won't get it. Many emotions boil within and how one reacts to it does perhaps depend on your personality- whether you deal with it by leaving, or by sarcasm, simply shutting up or even lashing out. But it burns nonetheless. Comments about being a foreigner, someone who doesn't belong, someone who is prejudiced based on your skin colour, your accent….it burns.

This country has been good to me- many a times I have been asked this question- if there was racism, would you have got to where you are? Perhaps wrapped in overtly simplistic way of looking at life, the answer is perhaps not. The fact however is that racism has always been there..comments from a Consultant whilst looking for a training job (We don't have jobs for folks like you in the South)- they have rankled- but it perhaps just made one more determined to get a job down south- and make your mark. And Britain by and large has always been a tolerant country- nothing warms your heart than going to London- yes, there is that degree of "isn't London so much better?" but the simple ways of life where your colour, where you came from doesn't indeed  reflection of what a mature society is all about.

But things have changed…subtly at first and then with the impact of a sledgehammer- fuelled by Brexit, fuelled by the Katie Hopkins culture- today we are in a world of dogwhistle fun and games. It erupted all around us- those who voted to "Leave"- were either blissfully unaware of the permission they gave others- or were just aware and didn't care- either way, the genie is out of the box. Today, we have headlines asking for listing of foreign workers…you read headlines like that- and you worry, not about yourself but about your kids. You worry about their future, you worry about the world you live in, you worry what we are leaving them behind.

Which brings one to the NHS. This xenophobia has now managed to filter its way to the NHS-  beyond all the disputes, today, the NHS is looking at "foreign doctors"-  giving them labels…the same doctors this country desperately begged, borrowed, lured to help them in their times of need. Yes, many came for a "better" life- and yes it was a 2 way street- but do not make them feel unwanted. This country owes- over the years a huge amount of debt to foreigners in every sector of the NHS- and shame on any leader who wishes them away- or even if unknowingly makes them feel so. More medical places are indeed welcome- but there is no need-none-to pander to the xenophobic right by lacing that with "lets get rid of the foreigners".

I always take aim at leaders in the NHS- and today is no exception. Stop the nonsense talk about harmony, stop talking about Change Day, stop talking about imposing junior contract,stop talking about all drivel- and as one, say this is not acceptable. The NHS will always need doctors, nurses and allied professionals from other places…by driving them away, you harm your own population. To the Keoghs, Stevens, Mackeys et al- THIS is your time to say this is not acceptable. Beyond the politics- if you care for the NHS, be clear to the powers that be- leave the xenophobia out.

To those reading it, it hurts- it hurts a lot. When I do what I do- whether it be my clinical work or national plans, I don't do it as an "overseas doctor" or "foreigner"- I do it because its the right thing to do for folks in this country- a country which i have seen as my own- a country whose pedigree you admired due to the wars they fought against fascism and the rest. If tomorrow the thousands like me decide not to be dog whistled at and leave, the loss is unlikely going to be ours. 

Claimed your own country back- I am not sure what from to be honest. And once again, our fabulous NHS leaders? Take a stand, make some noise…make folks like us feel a little more valued and less worried about our families than we are at the moment. It would be much much appreciated 


  1. Agree Partha this is something that requires senior leaders to up their game and soon.
    It is a massive challenge to change society as a whole but we can start by concentrating on our own spheres of influence.
    One lever might be to capitalise on the five year forward view rhetoric around staff resilience. The reality is we all know about the workforce crisis in the NHS. If staff are victims of hate crime this will impact on their ability to work so even more imperative for leaders to advocate zero tolerance (aside of course from the basic moral and ethical issues).

    This is something we are trying to address at a local level in Leicestershire.

    In my view any patient in an NHS setting who abuses staff on the basis of race effectively disqualifies themselves from treatment. That would be a strong message to get out there.

    Mike McHugh
    Consultant in public health


    "We are rebuilding the British Empire with strong minds. A soft superpower house, trading globally, connected internationally."
    - Boris Johnson

    1. Introducing our own Baron Munchausen attempting to rival the feats of Cecil Rhodes - and he is a Cabinet Minister!

  3. Partha
    Your experiences are unsurprising and sad. I'm astonished that we are somehow sleepwalking to the 1950s. My mum told me about the 1950s and they were awful, even for white people.
    As a Scot I have 2 observations. Firstly that Scotland, whilst far from perfect, has shown that a different approach to immigration, public services and society is possible. Secondly we know from the past, and increasingly from present rhetoric, that no Blacks, no Irish, no Scots signs are not that inconceivable.
    We must challenge every racist, homophobic, sexist and bigoted word and action less the unacceptable becomes the norm. And yes I'm looking at you Boris, and you May.
    Greg Jones
    Diabetes Doctor

  4. well said Partha. agree wholeheartedly. the comment regarding foreign staff being able to stay 'until we have trained enough british doctors' (or words to that effect) from the PM recently, along with the potential requirement for companies to list 'foreign workers' pours cold water into my heart.

  5. I am so, so sorry Partha - I work closely with several overseas highly trained and dedicated medics and nurses, who form an invaluable part of our hospital team.

    They're from around the EU, Ireland and further afield. This rhetoric affects them and their families deeply, with the uncertainty not only about their own jobs, but also those of their partners, and the future for their children at school in the UK who may not have (or get) UK citizenship.

    This is a crazy situation - the NHS is highly reliant on retaining them all, and recruiting more to fill the gaps before 2025 ...

    With best wishes,