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PREVIEW: Our NHS - A Hidden History, BBC One

The people who came to this country to work in the NHS have found themselves fighting battles they neither sought nor expected.

As we emerge from a global pandemic that has turned our world upside down, David Olusoga explores the hidden history of the nurses, doctors and health workers who, for more than 70 years, have been coming to Britain from overseas to serve in the NHS. Without them the NHS would have been in danger of collapse - not least during the current COVID crisis - but from the very start the story of this beloved British institution has been intertwined with one of the most divisive social and political issue of the age, immigration.

Today, more than 13 per cent of the 1.2 million people who work for the NHS are from overseas, representing 200 different nationalities, and in England and Wales more than 40 per cent can claim minority ethnic heritage, making the NHS the most diverse of all British institutions.

The programme gives voice to the moving and often raw experiences of nurses from the Irish Republic, the Caribbean and the Philippines, GPs and surgeons from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and paramedics from Central Europe, as well as to the British-born children and grandchildren of immigrants who have found themselves helping and healing with one hand while fending off the sharp end of discrimination and racism with the other.

Ultimately, their stories say as much about perseverance, dedication and the overcoming of obstacles as they do about discrimination and prejudice.

Our NHS: A Hidden History airs Thursday 15th July at 9pm on BBC One.


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