On 22 June 1948, HMT Empire Windrush arrived in the UK, carrying over 1,000 passengers from the West Indies.
Mainly former service personnel, this was the first wave of post war immigration with many of the passengers taking up roles in the NHS, which launched just two weeks later.
The journey of the early Black and minority ethnic colleagues in the NHS, and in British society, was not an easy one. Faced with overt racism, discrimination and public outcry, they were not always welcome. The same experiences were faced by those who followed over the next few decades.
Today, ethnic minority colleagues make up almost a quarter of the NHS workforce and 42% of medical staff.
Alongside the NHS’s 75th birthday that takes place next month, we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of Windrush and diversity of the NHS workforce. From the Windrush generation of 1948, the south Asian arrivals in the 1960s and 70s, to today’s workforce which currently represents over 200 nationalities.
Commenting on the anniversary, Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England, said:
“The 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the work of our Black and other ethnic minority colleagues and their significant contributions to the National Health Service, which is also marking its 75th year.
From 1948 to today, the NHS has always welcomed talent from around the world. Many of the new arrivals’ contributions to the health service helped to create a new and free health care system for all. They were critical to the formation of the NHS, and I am honoured to work alongside their descendants and generations that followed in their footsteps.”