Brexit Stories: 'I was ashamed to look my European colleagues in the eye after the referendum'

Salehya Ahsan (left). Image: Salehya Ahsan/Instagram

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Doctor Salehya Ahsan works in an emergency department in Bangor, north Wales. She voted to remain and since the result has been campaigning with ‘NHS against Brexit’ for a People’s Vote.

She also appeared on Channel 4's Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls, and on BBC Two's Trust Me I'm A Doctor.

"Everyone is a potential NHS patient in this country, and they have to think about the impact of Brexit on themselves and on their loved ones now.

Because of Brexit, I’m concerned about access to good supplies of medicines, and access to a workforce.

Unless you actually work within the NHS, within some of the areas that are heavily dependent on these factors, you’re not going to understand what that means.

I know what it’s like to be understaffed in a busy hospital, and I’ve had a taster of what it’s like when we occasionally have a national shortage of an essential drug.

Brexit is going to be like that, times by a hundred. It’s going to be awful, and it’s the people who voted for it who will suffer the most.


'Slap in the face'

"Going to work the day after Brexit and meeting my Portuguese, Spanish and Greek nurses and looking them in the eye, I was just ashamed.

The NHS has survived on the shoulders of the people who work for it, and a fair amount of it has been goodwill.

A lot of that goodwill came from Europe. If that goodwill was to be removed, what would the service be like?

The people who have come from Europe to work in the NHS have helped to prop it up, and what have we done? We’ve given them a slap in the face.

They’ve cared for us, but now we’re telling them we don’t particularly want them to come over as easily anymore.

One of my colleagues, who is German, said he was relieved his mother died before she saw the outcome of the referendum, because she would have been heartbroken. That is the level of feeling.


'We need a final decision'

"I’m disgusted and appalled at the way the referendum campaign was run, and I’m disappointed by the gullibility of people to accept the lies that they were told. I think people deserve to vote again with the facts.

I don’t buy this accusation that we’re calling for another vote because we didn’t get the result we wanted the first time. It’s about how much did you know then and how much do you know now.

If a patient comes in for a medical procedure, you don’t just sign on the dotted line and hope for the best. We tell them what the risks are, what the positives are, and they make a decision based on what we’ve told them.

It’s called informed consent and we just haven’t had this with Brexit. I think it’s incredibly important that all of us have a chance to be part of that final decision in terms of what happens with a deal."


As told to talkRADIO