Children’s Poet Laureate Michael Rosen supports DAUK’s Overseas NHS Workers Day

Over the years I’ve had several longish spells in hospital and quite a few visits to clinics. The NHS has mended my nose, picked me up off the road having been knocked down, knitted my pelvis together, taught me how to walk, spotted my auto-immune disease, stitched up hernias and, most recently, saved my life from Covid. My parents too, of course especially in their last years.

As I write this, I’m still seeing doctors and nurses every two weeks or so.In all this time, going back to the 1950s, I can remember time and time again, I have been looked after by doctors and nurses who were born overseas: Jamaica, Denmark, Brazil, Uganda, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Grenada, Ireland, Trinidad, China, Australia…apologies to people and places I’ve missed out – but I’m matching people to places, as I write this list.

And I don’t want to overlook the people who did the scans and x-rays, taught me how to walk – twice! – cooked and brought me food, cleaned the wards, did the laundry and 100s of jobs I didn’t see. One way for me to look at this is to see my well-being and survival resting on the work of 100s of people, many of whom were born in other countries. Of course, in their careers they have looked after 1000s of other people, but through my telescope thinking of them, they are for a moment just looking after me!

And it seems almost miraculous that people who started out life many, many miles away from me could have arrived next to my hospital bed and done all that care, skill and attention which has enabled me to carry on.

Gratitude doesn’t really express how I feel about this. It feels much more than saying thank you to someone for doing a kind thing. It was this but it also involves application of knowledge with a devotion that goes beyond that.

I can’t bear to think that there have been times when people in this huge army of workers have felt under-valued or under-appreciated. I for one know that all NHS workers make huge sacrifices to do this work. It can take a heavy toll on personal and social life.

Right now, in this tribute, I’m also thinking of the kinds of sacrifice that people born overseas make too. Leaving home, with all its tugs of family, friends, familiar places, familiar foods can be a hard struggle. I know that look on people’s faces when they remember loved ones, loved places ‘back there’.So – in four huge words – a huge thank you! “

Michael Rosen