In recent years migrants like me have been constantly accused of bringing the NHS onto its knees.
But let me be clear, our NHS would not have been possible without the contribution of migrants. Migrants have played a vital role in the construction of the NHS since its creation.
Recently, a lot of Indian, Filipino and European doctors and nurses have come to the UK. The NHS is now one of the most multicultural organisations in the world with over 200 nationalities working alongside each other.
"It’s this diversity that helps to make the NHS one of the best health systems in the world"
I am one of those migrants. I finished my nursing degree in 1997 and I couldn’t find a stable job and I ended up delivering pizzas.
Taking advantage of freedom of movement, I came to the UK in 2000 to pursue my dream of becoming a nurse.
I landed in Luton on bonfire night with just £50 in my pocket and a suitcase full of hope. I have worked hard for the NHS ever since.
In these 18 years, I fell in love here, I married here, I bought my first house here, I had my children here and I fulfilled my dream of being a nurse here.
"The UK is my home. I always felt it was home."
But Brexit has turned our lives upside down.
Things did not happen overnight; instead, little by little, I have seen attitudes towards migrants change. Tensions had been building up slowly, but Brexit was like the cork being pulled out of the champagne bottle.
After nearly two decades, I no longer feel welcome or valued.
The NHS suffered from staff shortages and tight budgets long before Brexit, but since the Brexit referendum almost 10,000 nurses have quit.
The Conservative Government’s austerity measures mean that British nurses don’t want to fill these roles either.
Nursing is a tough gig and not for the faint of heart; people go into it because they genuinely care, but when your salary is frozen for seven years (not even keeping up with inflation) and you struggle to provide a good quality of life for your family, even the most altruistic individual might consider a career change.
Brexit, topped by the hostile environment created by the Government, has meant both an immediate and a longer-term loss of EU medical professionals. The first wave leaving are the doctors and nurses who haven’t been residing in the UK that long: they can up sticks and move on to greener pastures easily.
Those who have been here longer, like me, and are more established – we are not leaving yet, but we are drawing up exit plans for the near future, when their kids are grown.
The 40,000 nursing vacancies that are causing problems now are just the beginning.
The future of the NHS is under threat but what worries me more is that the chronic staff shortage means it is getting more and more difficult to provide a minimal standard of care.
If we want the NHS to continue for another 70 years, the Government needs to stop Brexit and stop the Hostile Enviroment that this government is obsess with.
Unless the we act now, and stop Brexit, our NHS will not survive another winter.
What is worse is that maybe you or a member of your family will die because staff can no longer provide the safe care that you deserve.
New Europeans is a pan-European civil rights organisation based in Brussels and London.
We are a membership association which champions the rights or EU citizens and works for a Europe of the citizens, a Europe of equality and social justice, anchored in human rights. We are members of the European Civic Forum and the Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Europe. In 2019 we won the Schwarzkopf Europe Award.
New Europeans was launched on 18 June 2013.
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