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NHS70: ‘If the NHS is to last another 70 years, the government needs to show migrants they are welcome’

PUBLISHED: 10:05 05 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:13 05 July 2018

Joan Pons Laplana at the start of his career. Photo: Joan Pons Laplana

Joan Pons Laplana at the start of his career. Photo: Joan Pons Laplana

Joan Pons Laplana

A Norfolk nurse has praised the “vital role in the construction of the NHS” migrants have played since its inception in 1948.

The Theresa May Anti-Brexit Float in Norwich. Joan Pons Laplana, a Spanish nurse who has lived and worked in England for the past 17 years. Picture : ANTONY KELLYThe Theresa May Anti-Brexit Float in Norwich. Joan Pons Laplana, a Spanish nurse who has lived and worked in England for the past 17 years. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

A Norfolk nurse has praised the “vital role in the construction of the NHS” migrants have played since its inception in 1948.

Joan Pons Laplana, a nurse at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston, spoke out today to coincide with the NHS’ 70th anniversary.

Mr Laplana, who is the Journal Of Nursing’s Nurse of the Year 2018, said: “The NHS would not have been possible without the contribution of migrants”.

Writing for the Metro, he said a lot of Indian, Filipino and European doctors and nurses have come to the UK.

He said: “The NHS is now one of the most multicultural organisations in the world with over 200 nationalities working alongside each other. It’s this diversity that helps to make the NHS one of the best health systems in the world.

“I am one of those migrants. I came to the UK in 2000 to pursue my dream of becoming a nurse. I landed in Luton on bonfire night with just £50 in my pocket and a suitcase full of hope. I have worked hard for the NHS ever since. In these 18 years, I fell in love here, I married here, I bought my first house here, I had my children here and I fulfilled my dream of being a nurse here. The UK is my home. I always felt it was home.”

But Mr Laplana, who is from Spain, said since Brexit was decided in 2016, he had seen attitudes towards immigrants change.

He said already doctors and nurses who had not been here long had left. And although those like Mr Laplana who have been here longer are not leaving at the moment, he said they were “drawing up exit plans for the near future, when their kids are grown”.

He said: “People started telling me and my fellow EU colleagues: ‘Go back to your country’, and ‘You took our jobs’. I have witnessed other EU citizens being intimidated on trains, and fellow passengers do nothing to stop it. Since Brexit, I am more aware of my accent.”

He added: “After nearly two decades, I no longer feel welcome or valued.”

He said: “If we want the NHS to continue for another 70 years, the government needs to send a signal that migrants are welcome and vital for the economy of our country.”

Mr Laplana regularly blogs for the national press on issues surrounding the NHS and Brexit.

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