The Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after being diagnosed with coronavirus, spent time in hospital before being released on Sunday 13 April.
Addressing the nation for the first time since recovering from coronavirus, Johnson said in his statement that the “NHS saved my life” before going on to thank staff personally, including immigrant workers who had no doubt worked tirelessly and professionally to support the PM and others in their care.
As he declared that the NHS is “powered by love” and “unconquerable”, Johnson echoed sentiments of the opposition. It is a far cry from the Tories usual endeavour to euthanise the NHS and hand it over amid its dying breath to the President of the United States.
Boris Johnson’s recovery and his words of appreciation for the NHS and all its staff, British-born or otherwise, are not partisan issues but they are political. The PM’s new appreciation of migrant workers should not have come at such a disastrous tipping point. It should not have taken COVID-19 and Johnson personally suffering to fully realise the enormous contribution of both migrants and the NHS to Britain’s national identity, welfare, culture and economy.
It is a far cry from the Tories usual endeavour to euthanise the NHS and hand it over amid its dying breath to the President of the United States
Last week saw 21 Sudanese doctors, currently stranded in the UK, denied permission to assist British healthcare in the middle of this pandemic despite their medical expertise. In a time where the NHS is crying out for support, both in terms of staffing and specialist equipment to protect themselves and their patients, such a move is bewildering.
Yet, is it that strange? It is worth noting that Boris Johnson was not Prime Minister during the time Jeremy Hunt played at Health Secretary who was responsible for an incredible loss of A&E beds, hospital overcrowding and brutal cuts to hospitals – plus many other cruel, punishing measures.
However, Johnson has overseen punitive measures against migrant workers including many of our NHS staff. His plans to increase the Immigration Surcharge Fee for migrants has been widely criticised as its exorbitant cost is enough to stifle many working families, and there is no exemption to the staggering fee for NHS workers.
Johnson’s appointed Health Secretary Matt Hancock further tweeted in November 2019, saying: “It’s the national health service, not the international health service” which is certainly ironic since many hands rushing to the aid of our loved ones amid the coronavirus crisis originate from overseas, yet Hancock envisions that migrant residents in the UK should not get to benefit from free healthcare.
If there is ever a silver lining to the coronavirus crisis, Johnson may draw upon his experience to amend his party’s immigration strategy and its treatment of the NHS
Boris Johnson and many of his Conservative colleagues have happily goaded, encouraged and supported division within British society when, once upon a time, Brexit was all that mattered. His new appreciation for the power of unity regardless of background are the words of those on a completely different side to the political spectrum.
Donna Kinnair, the Royal College of Nursing Chief Executive and General Secretary has said the government must “properly reward staff” through appropriate pay negotiations and by addressing “long-term shortages” for nurses especially.
Hopefully, if there is ever a silver lining to the coronavirus crisis, Johnson may draw upon his experience to amend his party’s immigration strategy and its treatment of the NHS. It is particularly poignant that Johnson highlighted that his nurses originate from Portugal and New Zealand, suggesting a potential change of heart.
Still, the Prime Minister and his party must put in action efficient and economic measures such as proper pay rises for healthcare staff and ultimately, a kinder way of supporting migrants within British society. It is up to us to hold Johnson to his word.