Commemorating 75 Years Of Windrush Contributions To The NHS

22/06/2023

Today marks the 75th anniversary of Windrush Day – 22 June 1948. Many of those on board joined the NHS, which launched two weeks later. We recognise and thank all our NHS colleagues connected to the Windrush arrival to the UK (and those who followed after), for their invaluable contributions to society.

The mother of Spectrum’s Chief Executive Dr Linda Harris OBE was recruited by the UK government, as part of concerted efforts, 14 years after Empire Windrush set sail from Jamaica. Kathleen Tai (as she was known then) went on to deliver care as a mental health nurse for just over 30 years.

Following on from the Windrush arrival, she recalls: “The UK was welcoming support for its workforce from Commonwealth countries. Travelling and caring for others was my dream, and a far cry from entering the family grocery business in Kingston, Jamaica – something I was not happy about doing. Initially, my family were not supportive. But after pressing them, they eventually relented and gave their blessing to my application.

I had to be interviewed by several departments and medically checked over. The agency dealing with me said they would get back to me once they had sent the application to several different hospitals in the UK. It seemed like years before I heard any news, but then I heard back that I had been accepted at St Mary’s Hospital in Colchester, Essex.

Arriving in the Autumn of 1962, I was terrified. A dull, cold and dark place, houses were joined together, and there was smoke coming out of rooftops. What a difference to the life I had left behind – no sun in sight! My dream felt more like a nightmare. I felt so ignorant and yearned to go back to my homeland.

I was ushered through, following others, doing what I was told and that someone would be waiting for me. I saw a woman in the crowd holding up a sign saying KATHLEEN TAI. Trembling, I walked over to her. She got me a hot drink and then drove me to a train station, put me on the train, told me I would be ok and that someone would meet me in Colchester. Never been as frightened again since, but of course she was right; someone was there waiting for me with my name on a sign and took me to the hospital. The rest, as they say, is history.”

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