London Met hosts research conference celebrating migrant nurses in the NHS

The conference provided an in depth look into current challenges and historical legacies of nurses who have migrated to the UK to work in the National Health Service.

Date: 21 July 2023

On Wednesday 12 July, London Met welcomed an audience to a landmark conference, ‘Migrant Nurses in the NHS – historical legacies and current challenges’, organised and hosted by Professor Louise Ryan of the Global Diversities and Inequalities Research Centre; alongside Dr Julie MacLaren, Head of Nursing Studies at the university. The event was opened by London Met's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lynn Dobbs.

The conference showcased the rich history of migrant contribution to the NHS following its inception 75 years ago. Guest speakers included a range of experts in their field, who delivered impactful sessions detailing the history of Irish, Caribbean, Zimbabwean, and Filipino nurses and their first-hand experiences of their time in the profession. The challenges of nurse recruitment, especially in the light of Brexit was also discussed.  

Prof Ryan opened the conference by presenting findings from her Oral History project with Irish Nurses in the NHS, with Grainne McPolin and Neha Doshi.  

Since 1948, migrant nurses have played a crucial role in the NHS. The active recruitment of overseas staff from countries near and far has been a defining feature of the health service. The conference brought together academic researchers and practitioners to explore the contribution of diverse groups of nurses over time – from the early decades of the NHS right up to the present day.  

Guest speakers at the conference included:  

  • Dr Myrtle Emmanuel, University of Greenwich  
  • Dr Livingstone Musoro, London Metropolitan University  
  • Anna Reyes and Gladys Martir, University College London  
  • Abigail Bernard, Independent Scholar  
  • Dr Joy Spiliopoulos, University of Leicester  

Many of the discussions examined the prejudice nurses faced following migration.

Real life perspectives were brought into the event with a photography exhibition of nurses’ testimonies, titled 'Irish Nurses in the NHS Photographic Exhibition,’ that was featured at the entrance of the conference. The project comes as part of Louise and Grainne McPolin’s ongoing research, which includes a podcast. 

Professor Louise Ryan, Senior Professor at London Metropolitan University commented:  

“It was wonderful to hear from so many diverse voices on this important topic. More research is needed on the varied contribution of nurses, and other medical staff, from around the world, to the long history of the NHS.  We must honour the people who have made an enormous impact on healthcare in our society and recognise the bravery and strength it took to uproot themselves from their native countries and join forces with UK nurses since the NHS began 75 years ago.” 

The latter part of the conference involved  an engaging panel discussion chaired by Dr Julie MacLaren, featuring insights from Rohit Sagoo – Founder of British Sikh Nurses and Lecturer in Children’s Nursing at Anglia Ruskin University, Dr Joanne Hutchinson – Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing, London Metropolitan University, and Dr Louise Salmon – Careers programme Manager for Refugees, Refugee Assistance and Guidance Unit, London Metropolitan University. 

This event is sponsored by the Burdett Trust for Nursing as part of the Irish Nurses in the NHS project led by Professor Louise Ryan and Grainne McPolin 

Find out more about the work of the Global Diversities and Inequalities Research Centre.

Organisers of Migrant Nurses in the NHS Conference

Photo:Neha Doshi, Dr Julie Maclaren, Prof Lynn Dobbs, VC, Dr Olive McKeown (retired nurse), Prof Louise Ryan, Anna Mae Kenneally (Irish Embassy),  Grainne McPolin (Irish Nurses in NHS project co-lead), Lorna Keating (retired nurse)