THE VITAL work done by East Lancashire's migrant NHS staff has been highlighted this week, after the service was collectively awarded a George Cross.

The honour, awarded by the Queen, coincided with the NHS 73rd birthday on July 5 and comes after former head of the government's test and trace programme and Conservative peer Dido Harding controversially pledged to cut the number of overseas doctors and nurses working for the heath service as part of her application to become the next chief executive of NHS England.

However this provoked condemnation from many of those on the front line, including from Rossendale-based health marshal volunteer Clare Harris, who has also spoken of the care her 93-year-old mother-in-law has received at the hands of migrant staff as an example of why they are just as deserving of this week's accolade.

Mrs Harris, who has also worked at Rawtenstall Health Club were coronavirus vaccines are administered, said: "The government seems to be in complete denial about the urgency to recruit staff into the NHS and care homes, the current vacancies are not being met and will not be met by UK residents

"Many care homes are staffed by immigrant workers who give excellent care and support to our elderly and vulnerable

"New recruits need training, we don't have the capacity of trained recruits to replace the immigrant workforce."

She added: "Given the heinous treatment received by the NHS and its staff and the derisory pay offer in the face of front line battle with Covid, it's a surprise that we have anyone choosing to apply for the vacancies at all!

"Care and compassion are not dictated by skin colour or country of origin."

Mrs Harris said that her own family's experiences helped to illustrate these points.

She said: "My mother-in-law finds the support of immigrant staff preferable as they have more interesting stories to tell."

She added: "The sooner this government gives way to those less self centred and more interested in looking after the best interests of those residing in the UK the better."

Barons Harding's pledge to reduce the numbers of foreign NHS staff, were also condemned by political opponents, unions and campaign groups.

A spokesperson for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said: "Migrant NHS workers risked their lives to keep our country going during the pandemic and this is Dido Harding’s response?

"We need better pay, conditions and respect for our NHS workers, regardless of where they were born, not xenophobic dog-whistling.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid MP confirmed on Saturday July 3 that he had ruled out Baroness Harding's application.