Confirmation that all international health and care staff, and their spouses and dependants, will no longer need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge is being sought by the RCN and other healthcare unions.
The charge, which is due to rise from £400 to £624 a year in October, is currently payable by all migrants from non-EU countries, whether they access NHS services or not, both for themselves and for every dependant they have. Last month, the UK government committed to scrapping the charge for heath and care workers in the NHS, but the announcement did not include those working in other healthcare settings.
‘We have consistently campaigned for this charge to be scrapped. It has always been unfair for health and care staff effectively to pay twice to use the very service they work in,’ said Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing.
‘We welcomed the commitment to remove the charge but now we need assurances that this will apply to all health and care workers and their families. The contribution of our overseas nurses, across all settings, has been incredible particularly during the pandemic and it is essential this can continue. Action must be taken now to ensure all those who come here to dedicate themselves to our patients are not penalised for doing so.’
In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, also signed by the British Medical Association, UNISON and the Royal College of Physicians, the RCN asked the UK government to confirm that all health and care workers will be exempt from the charge on a permanent basis.
This includes those employed in the NHS, independent settings and the social care sector, and confirm that the spouses and dependants of health and care workers will also be exempt from the charge. The letter also seeks assurances that those healthcare staff who have already paid the charge in advance will receive a refund.
“Our international colleagues were hugely relieved when the Government made the long overdue decision to scrap this unfair charge for healthcare workers, recognising the vital contribution that overseas staff make to the NHS. However, three weeks’ later many will be increasingly anxious having heard nothing more. Doctors renewing visas are continuing to be charged and we need action now. It’s crucial, if we are to show how much we truly value our overseas staff, that the Government publicly commits to excluding all health and care workers from the charge, as well as their families, and confirms that those who have already paid the fee will receive a rebate,’ said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair.
‘There is no point scrapping the charge for individuals if they are still forced to pay thousands of pounds for their families or have already spent great sums to cover their visa for years to come. The BMA persistently lobbied to have this punitive and absurd fee scrapped for our members and their colleagues and we will not stop until we have a system that is fair, right and leaves no international doctor worse off for contributing their valuable skills and expertise to the NHS and its patients.’