On 22 June 1948, the MV Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks carrying 492 Caribbean passengers. More followed afterwards. These migrants and descendants of migrants have played a vital role in the construction of the NHS since its creation. Without them the NHS would not have been possible. More recently Indian, Filipino and European doctors and nurses have come to the UK to ensure that our NHS continues to be the best health care system in the world.
I am one of them. I came to the UK 17 years ago 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.
I am one of the three million EU citizens who live in this country. We came to the UK in good faith and we have made our home and our lives here. We contribute on every level and in every sector of British society. Many EU nationals are already severely affected by the current Home Office stance and families are being torn apart.
When this country is so short of nurses we cannot afford to put people off in this way. 17 years ago, I was warmly invited to build my life here. I was told it was my home from home. I was told I could settle down, marry a Brit and make my life here. Yet today I am told I'm a foreigner and should go back where I come from. Things are getting so bad that many of my fellow EU citizens hardly dare to speak their own language on the streets for fear of being insulted or attacked. Our very own identity is being challenged, our future, our life. Diversity is what makes a society prosper. I was born in Spain, but lived most of my adulthood life in Britain.
Without the thousands of migrants, with hundreds of different nationalities working at all levels of the service, it is difficult to see how the NHS can survive in its present form.
In recent years we have been accused of being the cause of the lack of housing and school places; and putting a strain on public services, to bring the NHS to its knees. But let me tell you something. Without us, the NHS will not exist.
Please don't accuse us of ruining the NHS, we are crucial to its running!
With the National Health Service in the midst of its most challenging moment it is more essential than ever that we acknowledge these contributions. For that reason, the One Day Without Us campaign invites NHS staff to join in a national day of action to celebrate migrants and migration on 17 February. This action day is also being supported by the European Movement, alongside other pro-European organisations. Take this opportunity to celebrate your migrant friends, workmates and colleagues and the daily difficulties and challenges that you have overcome together.
Let the country know that you are proud of them and proud to stand with them. We recognize that NHS staff have no time to spare. But there are many ways you can participate on 17 February even inside a hospital. Join the One Day without Us unifying action at 2 o’clock. Post pictures or short videos of yourselves and your migrant colleagues on social media. Hold up 1DayWithoutUs placards or placards with the nationalities of your team.
Share and retweet us on social media using #1DayWithoutUs. You can find out more information about One Day Without Us here: http://www.1daywithoutus.org/
Joan Pons Laplana is a Transformation Nurse.
He is passionate about making needs-based, person-centred nursing decisions whilst being sensitive to any cultural or other factors. He supports staff to drive the standards of care up on a daily basis. He is helping to influence direct patient care through championing the 6Cs and encouraging people to think differently. He has a cabinet full of awards but his best achievement is that he is making a positive difference to people. Find him on Twitter @roaringnurse.