One thing that struck me about my personal experience of daycase surgery in one of BMI Healthcare's private hospitals was the international nature of the team that looked after me.
Let’s start with the surgeon. Abhay Chophada undertook his medical training in India, and then moved to the UK gaining experience at the University of London, and University College London Hospital. But it was the make-up of the rest of my care team that made me realise the extent to which the UK now delivers international healthcare.
A UK healthcare team… from India, Serbia, Portugal, Lithuania, Egypt, Romania, Turkey and Russia
When I went for my pre-operative assessment:
- The nurse was from Serbia. She moved to the UK to gain experience and to earn four times the wage she would earn in Serbia.
- The phlebotomist was a first generation member of an Indian family.
- The cardiac physiologist was Portuguese. She had trained at the Coimbra University Hospital and moved to the UK to earn three times the salary.
The care team during my hospital stay comprised:
- A nurse from Lithuania.
- A nurse from Romania.
- A nurse from Turkey
- A physiotherapist from Egypt.
Only the lady who served my tea would be described as "White British" on a census form.
And in the NHS?
It's a similar picture. Last year, we sent a Freedom of Information request to London's teaching hospitals, asking for the nationality of their consultant staff.
- At the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust, close to 40% of the consultants are not UK nationals.
- At Guy’s and St Thomas’, the figure is around 25%.
- And a similar picture is repeated at the Royal Marsden and the Royal Free.
It reflects the extent to which the UK is seen as a centre of healthcare excellence in many specialties. Doctors and specialists want to gain knowledge, expertise and experience at the best hospitals. Hence, they migrate to the UK. If you watched the BBC documentary on Great Ormond Street last year, you will have noticed how many of the featured specialists were neither trained or were born in the UK. The best paediatricians in Europe and around the world want to manage the most difficult and diverse cases, work with the brightest colleagues and be involved in cutting edge research. That's why they head for London's teaching hospitals.
If we leave the EU...
If we erect barriers to entry to the many excellent healthcare staff attracted to the UK from countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece, how would we replace them? It's a valid point when looking at the pro's and con's of the in/out debate. It would have a major potential impact on both the private sector and the NHS.
Let's make it our USP!
What makes London different? It's the multicultural and international nature of the city.
What makes London's healthcare different?. It's the multicultural and international nature of those who deliver healthcare in our private hospitals and the NHS.
And for those private hospitals and NHS Trusts that target the international market, that's a great story to tell when you want to attract patients from across the globe.