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 matter..is 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