NHS Chief Executive pays tribute to “essential contribution” of Windrush generation

The head of the NHS in England Sir Simon Stevens has marked Windrush Day 2020 by committing the NHS to drive further improvements in race equality across the health service.

On the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush, carrying migrants from the Caribbean to England, the NHS is marking the contribution of staff from more than 200 nationalities who have played a critical part in the shaping of the health service, and remain a crucial part of our NHS workforce today.

With the Windrush arrival in 1948 coming only a fortnight ahead of the founding of the NHS, the anniversaries this year are being used to drive practical changes in support for BAME staff and patients.

A new Health and Race Observatory has been established to offer practical changes in working practices and services, building on the work of the NHS’ pioneering Workforce Race Equality Standard, which assesses the experience of NHS BAME staff.

These will support the work that NHS organisations are doing to progress race equality for staff, patients, and communities. Every local NHS trust and employer is also being urged to complete assessments of staff in at-risk groups, including those from BAME backgrounds.

Speaking from Windrush Square in Brixton, Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said: “Today not only marks an important moment for millions of families across the nation, but also for our health service.

“Many of those who came to this country shortly after the war, on ships such as the Windrush, helped nourish the NHS in its early years, and became an integral part of its success.

“So it’s right to take a moment to look back at this contribution with pride, while also confronting the reality that their dedication and service has not always been recognised, respected or rewarded.

“Fast forwarding to today, there is increasing evidence that longstanding inequalities are now being magnified and worsened by the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our black, Asian and minority ethnic patients, friends and colleagues.

“So Windrush Day this year has to serve not only as a reminder of our history, but as a catalyst for urgent action to tackle racism and discrimination wherever it is to be found.”

Whilst the Workforce Race Equality Standardd (WRES) shows NHS organisations are making progress, the NHS is committed to go further to drive improvements in race equality – both for its own staff, and in the way in which it offers care to all patients on the basis of need.

To promote analysis and action, NHS England has recently announced the founding of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, a new independent centre hosted by the NHS Confederation.

2020 also marks the 72nd anniversary for the NHS and has been the most challenging year in NHS history, with NHS staff worked hard to redesign services, recruit tens of thousands more staff and even build hospitals.

None of this would have been possible without the help and support of countless individuals and organisations around the country. The NHS would like to thank each and every one of the and at 5.00pm on the 5 of July NHS staff will lead applause for all those who have supported the NHS through recent months.