My brother and his wife had moved from a university hospital in Bulgaria and recall being surprised with how old the hospital buildings were in the UK and how basic the accommodation for nurses and doctors was. The main cultural challenge for them was the completely different organisation of the work of the doctors compared to other countries in Europe.
People’s politeness and kindness, country walks and Sunday pub lunches come up high on the list of easiest things to adapt to for all of us. My brother remembers people being too polite to express disagreement in a conversation, making it difficult to navigate interactions in this new social group. There is also certain formality and order in social and family relations here that took a bit longer to get used to – the need to book a get together with your friends weeks, if not months, in advance.
Having grown up in New Zealand, our children recall struggling with the fact that none of their friends ever went bare foot… anywhere… even in summer! They also remember feeling less free to run around and play anywhere or to walk to school without supervision. We have retained the feeling of how important family bonds are and continue to mark Christmas and Easter in the tradition and custom we have been brought up with. We also try to maintain the spontaneity in our contacts with friends and family – the doors of our homes are always open and the table is set within minutes, regardless of who the guests are.
We are all happy in our new homes and don’t feel home sick as such, but do miss certain aspects of life back in Bulgaria. These include the four distinct seasons – freezing winters and long, hot summers, days at the beach and walks by the sea –we are all from the city of Varna on the Black Sea coast – ripe, sweet, juicy tomatoes and traditional feta pastries (banitsa).
I presently work in NHS England as Head of Community Health Improvement. My son Tsanko is a Senior Implementation Manager in the Greener NHS programme, while my daughter Stefanie is a Senior Programme Manager in the National Outpatients Transformation Programme, also in NHS England. My brother Dr Doytchin Dimov is a consultant physician in respiratory diseases, while his wife Professor Doctor Galina Velikova-Dimova is a professor in psychosocial and medical oncology. They are both at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
We all feel grateful and humbled to be part of such a great institution. I feel privileged to have been able to work in different roles and in many NHS organisations, both delivering direct care to patients and planning or coordinating important aspects of the way the NHS operates. My son, daughter and I all feel excited and motivated for being involved in the development and implementation of key policies and improvements transforming the NHS and the way care is delivered, making it more responsive, efficient and sustainable. For me personally, the highlight of my journey was the moment I joined the team at NHS England to be the community health lead for the national review undertaken by Lord Carter in 2018 looking at operational productivity of community and mental health services, which produced many important recommendations reflected in the NHS Long Term Plan.
Our extended family has long been part of the delivery of health and care. My brother, Dr Doytchin Dimov is a third generation physician, our mother was a pharmacist, while Prof Dr Galina Velikova’s mother was a midwife. It has been a real privilege for all of us to feel part of the NHS’ journey and to be able to contribute with our skills, knowledge and passion to its continuing improvement.