Queen's Speech proposals to charge overseas migrants to use NHS are criticised by RCN

The RCN has responded to the Queen's Speech delivered in Parliament yesterday

It is unfair to charge overseas nurses who work in the NHS to use its services, the RCN has said in response to the Queen’s Speech.

The government’s legislation proposals for the next year were announced by the Queen at the state opening of Parliament yesterday.

They include making overseas visitors and migrants, from inside and outside the European Economic Area, pay for any health treatment they receive.

The NHS (Overseas Visitors Charging) Bill, which is to be introduced in Parliament, will include measures to extend the number of services for which the NHS can charge overseas migrants and visitors.

It will also tighten the rules on eligibility for free NHS services based on UK residence.

In response, RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘Many nurses from overseas are working for and contributing towards the NHS. It is simply unfair to expect them to be charged for NHS services.’

She added that charging migrants to use NHS services will also add to pressures on frontline staff in the health service.

‘The first priority of NHS staff is to provide patients with first-class care, and this must not be compromised by an expectation that they will be evaluating their patients’ eligibility for free care,’ said Ms Davies. 

The Queen’s Speech also reiterated the government’s commitment to extending the provision of NHS services across all seven days of the week. 

Disagreement over extending the hours that are considered part of junior doctors’ normal working week into the weekend has contributed to a long-running industrial dispute with the government, which was only resolved yesterday.

The British Medical Association (BMA) and the government agreed on a weekend allowance for junior doctors who work more than six weekends a year, with the BMA's membership still to vote on the new terms.

Ms Davies also raised concerns about the impact that increasing service provision at weekends will have on staffing.

She said: ‘There is still a lack of clarity over what the delivery of seven-day services across the NHS will involve.

‘The government needs to demonstrate how it will sufficiently and sustainably provide the resources required to provide seven-day services without compromising safe staffing and patient care. 

‘So far it has failed to do so.’

The Queen also announced that the government will act to ensure better mental health provision for individuals in the criminal justice system over the next year.