Comments made by the UK’s potential new NHS chief to ‘make the NHS less reliant on foreign workers’ has been met with a huge backlash. NHS workers have hit back at Baroness Dido Harding who made a pledge to make the NHS less reliant on the UK immigration system if she is appointed to the role of Chief Executive of the National Health Service.
Official figures show that 14% of NHS staff are non-British, with a large proportion of workers arriving from Ireland, India and the Philippines. Baroness Harding, who is the former head of the beleaguered COVID Test and Trace programme, has no other experience in healthcare and actually earned her reputation as the CEO of communications giant, TalkTalk.
Baroness Harding, who is also a Tory peer, has said that she would stand down from the Conservative Party if she is appointed to the NHS Chief Executive role.
Crass, disgraceful, disrespectful
However, Baroness Harding has faced scathing criticism over her plans. Retired nurse and President of All Pakistan Nurses Association APNA-U, Zeba Arif, said: “On behalf of overseas nurses who have contributed selflessly to the National Health Service, especially throughout the pandemic, I believe Baroness Harding’s statements of intent are not only crass but downright disgraceful and deeply disrespectful.”
“She appears to be inhabiting a parallel universe and seems sublimely unaware of the sacrifices ‘foreign’ healthcare professionals have made just to be employed! To begin with, they (and their families) have to pay an immigration health surcharge of £470 per person per year,” she added.
The APNA-U president went on to say that nurse vacancies currently stand at 40,000 and said that Baroness Harding’s words were ‘extremely worrying for those engaged in campaigns for safe staffing levels’.
Meanwhile, Nurses United UK, a grassroots campaign group, argued that ‘greater investment in UK schools, a living bursary, and a substantial restorative pay rise would be needed before the NHS could even start to develop a home-grown workforce’.
Anthony Johnson, Nurses United UK’s lead organiser, said: “Dido Harding remains as incompetent as ever as she panders to her political party.”
“The UK has always benefitted from international staff. Whether it was Indian, Pakistani or Caribbean nurses like my grandma in the 50s and 60s, or our colleagues from Europe and the Philippines in more recent times, we needed them to keep our loved ones safe,” Mr Johnson added.
Johnson went on to say that the NHS would not even exist without the contribution of international staff. He reiterated the need for greater investment and called for an end to the privatisation of the NHS, which he said that Baroness Harding had herself been a part of.
In recent months, calls for foreign NHS staff serving on the frontline amid the coronavirus pandemic to be granted UK indefinite leave to remain, have grown.
In January, a private members bill that would grant indefinite leave to remain in the UK to NHS workers was delayed under Common’s COVID-safety rules. However, the campaign is ongoing.
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