Health Secretary John Reid has today reinforced the importance of cultural diversity in the NHS but also emphasised the need for tougher rules to ensure that people do not abuse NHS services.
In a speech to the Unison Health Group conference in Glasgow John Reid said:
"We’ve all seen the scare stories in the right wing tabloids about immigration and I want to say a few words about what that means to the NHS.
"The NHS is the pride of Britain. The British people love it, partly because it is British and partly because it says a great deal about the kind of people we are. This is the best gift that the British people have ever given to themselves. Funded through general taxation it embodies the notion of social democratic citizenship: for each according to their need, from each according to their ability to pay. The beliefs of a few on the far right notwithstanding, the NHS embodies the values of the British people.
"As a British institution it was launched by a Welshman in the 1940s, its buildings built by Irish labour in every decade before and since. It has been sustained throughout its life by Asian Doctors and Caribbean nurses and is now hugely assisted by doctors either born abroad or whose parents were born abroad and by Filipino, Spanish and Somali nurses all working with British colleagues from many ethnic backgrounds. The NHS was based on, and is now run on, diversity.
"What the NHS as a real living and giving organisation is telling us is that all these different other people living and working in our midst, are not “others”. In fact, through the NHS they are obviously “us”.
"So of course we will defend the NHS from abuse or fraud, whether by so-called “Health Tourists” or by others And of course we want managed immigration, not an illegal free for all. But we will never forget that this is a British NHS run within British values of equity and tolerance and it encompasses all of this diversity within our Britishness.
"So let the message go out from this conference today - there is no room for racism in this NHS, the best of British institutions. It will not be tolerated
"There is no place for discrimination or harassment in the NHS on grounds of race or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or age."