THE BLOG

A Defence of the NHS and the Immigrants Who Keep It Alive

03/12/2014 11:40 GMT | Updated 02/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Last week I was in Camberwell, South London when I was drugged, shaved, cut open and had part of my insides removed. There must have been about 40 people involved in total, mostly foreign migrant workers. They pushed me around and made bloody well sure they got what they wanted as quickly as they could before I was sent on my way, back into the mean streets of the capital.

It has taken me since then to build up the strength to write this blog. Now I want to thank those who did what they did because they probably saved my life.

My appendix, like yours, was a waste of space and until a few days ago it had lived a charmed life with no real pressure to perform any role or live up to expectations. Still, it wanted out. After a brief visit to my local GP's walk in clinic I was expertly referred to A&E and very quickly became one of about 40,000 people admitted to hospital every year in England for appendicitis.

During the first few hours of my appendix's last stand I was poked, prodded, injected, tested and given advice by a range of medical specialists, a significant percentage of whom were not from the UK.

I was then wheeled to a clean, calm ward where over the course of next few hours I was kept comfortable, repeatedly checked, swabbed for MRSA, monitored, probed and generally fussed over by people from (this is my guess) about 10 different countries.

During this time I wanted for nothing. I was nil by mouth in preparation for the operation so a glance over the hospital dinner menu proved frustrating. Gags about hospital food are so 1980s. The menu was more comprehensive than that at numerous gastro pubs I've eaten in, honestly.

The operation came and went and thankfully I was discharged promptly. I couldn't have asked for a better experience and I think it's important that people should know that.

The current political climate in the UK is toxic and is often at risk of spilling over into being dangerous. There are two issues which are at the centre of party political rhetoric: the NHS and immigration.

It has been said a million times before but the NHS functions on foreign workers. Statistics, produced by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), earlier this year showed that 11% of all NHS staff are not British.

It's therefore safe to say that Britain does need immigration if the NHS, one of the world's greatest institutions, if it's to thrive and help the next generation to survive.

I'm not alone in feeling the way the immigration debate is constantly framed is poisonous. The issue is abused by politicians of the aspiring mainstream. They play to the worst prejudices of a society which, ironically, depends on migrant workers to literally stay alive.

How is it that perceptions of immigrants are so bad when they are they often ones caring for our sick sons, daughters, parents and grand-parents around the clock in hospitals and GP practices up and down the country?

As voters we need to scrutinise more closely what we're being told by people who desperately want a career in public life, with a £67,000 a year salary.

Today, in his autumn statement, George Osborne will plonk the NHS at the centre of his plans for 2015.

Let's be clear, his £2bn claimed pledge to NHS investment says less about his political philosophy and more about his desire to snuff out Labour's chance of making the NHS the centre of its election campaign.

The NHS is reduced to being a political football once again. Surely it's time to remove it from the cut and thrust of party politics. Is it time to establish longer term planning for the NHS away from the career building tactics of elected politicians?

Having experienced what I did a few weeks ago I'd say yes. The NHS does deserve more respect, as do the migrant workers who keep the blood flowing through its veins.