No health or care worker should feel alien in this country, says Dame Donna Kinnair in her latest blog to mark Windrush Day.
Today is Windrush Day. Although only the third official celebration, 22 June has been an important date for the British-Caribbean community. On this day in 1948, almost 500 Caribbean ‘invitees’ landed in Tilbury Docks.
Among that generation were my family, many of whom were nurses in the fledgling National Health Service. Last year, I reflected on the systemic and widespread racism some of my family and their colleagues faced.
They dedicated so much to the NHS; it’s one of the reasons I wanted to become a nurse. I will think of them today, their contribution, and the opportunities their journey across the Atlantic afforded me.
Windrush Day is a celebration but it’s also a moment of pause. The latest report from Public Health England (PHE) shows how historical racism could be why people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have been affected disproportionately. The spectre of the racism my family faced when they first arrived in the UK has cast a long shadow.
Our own archives show the story of black nurses in the UK didn’t start with Windrush. In fact, I’m sure the RCN will chronicle the achievements of nursing staff who trained overseas for another 73 years and more.
But shouldn’t we recognise the outstanding achievement of international health and care workers now? One in 10 registered nurses in the UK came from overseas and each one, and every health and care worker, has played a special role in the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s an easy way for the Home Office to show their thanks this Windrush Day. It doesn’t involve clapping, or medals.
The best way to honour the legacy of Windrush Day is to ensure no nurse, or health and care worker, who trained overseas, and helped in this pandemic, feels alien in this country.
Granting automatic, indefinite leave to remain to international health and care workers who helped tackle this virus should be instinctive. The services and support that they provide, though brought to the fore through this pandemic, have always been essential. They are, and always will be, key workers.