There has been much talk recently of immigration and the NHS but I was struck by how international the NHS workforce is - even in deepest Surrey!. Over three days I was on the ward I lost count of the different nationalities of the people who worked on the ward which included - British, Chinese, Indian and Italian doctors, British, Chinese and Jamaican nurses, Polish physio, Russian and Nepalese cleaners, Ghanian and Philippino porters to name but a few. The value of this truly international ensemble proved itself when on the last night a sick Slovakian man who spoke no English was admitted and both the Russian speaking cleaner and Polish physiotherapist were able to converse with him and act as interpreters.
Being on a ward with five other (English) men during my recovery was also something of an experience - the friendly humorous but at times irreverent banter, raised our spirits and enabled us to keep cheerful even though we were very sore. I was impressed with the tolerance and humour of nursing and care staff. Sadly, in spite of being surrounded by the benefits of living in a multicultural society the talk was all about leaving the EU and stopping foreign people from coming to live and work in the UK. The views that my fellow patients expressed seemed so at odds with the realities of the situation we were in: while all of us patients were English (white older men) a fair proportion of the people who were caring and looking after us had not been born in the UK. I was also struck by a remark made to me by a young Italian doctor who had chosen to come and work here because he appreciated the values on which the NHS is founded. My experience brought home to me the fantastic social creation that is our NHS.