Speaking for Ourselves

An open letter to the NHS from a doctor facing deportation

An open letter to the NHS from a doctor facing deportation

Dr Luke Anthony Ong

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - An open letter to the NHS from a doctor facing deportation

An Open Letter to the leaders of the NHS, on its 70th Anniversary

I arrived in the United Kingdom on the 13th of September 2007 on a grey autumnal day, with hopes and aspirations in my heart. By some stroke of luck, I had been accepted on to the Undergraduate Medicine Degree program by a selection panel from Manchester Medical School after an interview in Singapore. I took up the offer as soon as it was made, seizing the chance to chase my dreams of becoming a doctor, after 2 years in the Singaporean Military as a trained paramedic.

With each passing year, I looked forward to finally being able to make my contribution to the National Health Service, one of the many great institutions of this country, finally becoming a Foundation Doctor on a warm summer’s day - the first Wednesday of August, in 2012. I was equal parts terrified, as I was excited, by this new responsibility that was entrusted to me, a Foundation Doctor at the Royal Blackburn Hospital. The strongest steel is forged from the hottest fire, and my time at this very busy hospital in the heart of East Lancashire set the foundations of my medical career, shaping my career ambitions and direction.

At the same time, I set about putting roots down in the magnificent city of Manchester. Home to the Suffragettes, Labour and Co-operative movements, birthplace of countless Literary and Scientific greats, and the Nation's first NHS Hospital (Trafford Park Hospital, 1948).

I took pride in identifying as a Northerner by way of my Mancunian adoption. I settled easily into becoming not just a doctor, but a doctor who has traversed most of urban and rural Lancashire in the last few years. Passionately defending the NHS and the great things it does, and still continues to do, only comes naturally when you see the great achievements and results laid before you every single day.
Having experienced firsthand the dedication and goodwill of its nurses, healthcare assistants, physiotherapists, allied health professionals and doctors over the course of my 5 years of working as a Foundation, then General Practice Trainee, I brimmed with pride knowing my contributions to the NHS were very much appreciated and returned, with patient compliments, positive feedback, and many "Thank You" cards received over the years.

I decided that being at the coal-face of Medicine was what I was suited for, with my innate curiosity and affinity for getting to know people and what was going on in their lives, as well as the impact their health had on their lives. After completing 3 years of GP Training in Tameside, I was left with one final obstacle - passing my final Clinical Skills Assessment - the ultimate test of being a GP: 13 stations with simulated patients enacting a busy morning/afternoon surgery from all walks of life, and presenting with every possible scenario as one might expect in real life.

Around this time, I made an application to become settled in the UK - lodging it before my work visa was due to expire.
Imagine my shock and horror when I was told my application had been refused. It happened at the UK Visa and Immigration offices in Sheffield, 9 years, 11 months, and 17 days since the day I arrived - for the very simple reason I had waited for my face to face appointment with same day decision (for which I had paid a premium), instead of sending it off by post on the day my visa expired, allowing my legal residence to lapse.
All at once, my little world came crumbling down around me - What was I going to do with my appointments to review my patients the following week? What about my 5 months of GP training left? How was I meant to support my mortgage and living costs when I had been barred from working until my appeal was settled?
I have given the best years of my life to the NHS, working over the occasional Christmas, Easter, and Summer Bank Holidays, never once complaining or objecting to the whims of the planned rota.

The cruel reality is, there is a bewildering determination to remove me from my job, and obstruct me from completing my GP training - despite having passed my Clinical Skills Assessment. This can only serve to break my resolve to settle in this country. 

I have been denied any public assistance or right to work whilst my appeals have been heard (and successfully upheld by the First Tier Immigration Tribunal) It seems that this is all been done in the name of bringing immigration down to the “tens of thousands”. The blunt and senseless application of a government policy.

I am ready and willing to make my contribution - at a time when Primary Care is facing unprecedented pressure and strain, when GPs are being recruited at great cost from cross the world, I find it extremely bewildering that the Home Office are looking to appeal against my positive judgement, when I am a mere 5 months away from becoming a fully trained GP that this country so desperately needs.

I could leave it all behind and move to Australia like many of my peers have done - but I am not quite ready to give up the good fight yet. Resilience is something I have built up from my time in the NHS, and I will carry on the fight until either the Home Office positively reviews my case, or my own determination and savings run out.

"The NHS will last as long as there’s folk with faith left to fight for it’"Aneurin Bevan

Yours Sincerely,

Dr Luke Anthony Ong
GMC 7266626
GP Registrar

First published on: An Open Letter to the leaders of the NHS, on its 70th Anniversary - reprinted by permission