RCN congress agrees that government should stop health surcharge for overseas nurses

Kenyan nurse Evaline Omondi explained how the fee had affected her family

Nurses at RCN congress have voted to lobby the government to waive a healthcare surcharge for overseas nurses working in the UK.

Kenyan nurse Evaline Omondi speaking at RCN congress. Picture: John Houlihan

The government introduced a policy in 2015 requiring non-European Economic Area nationals to pay a £200 surcharge per family member for every year on their work permit. This fee for potentially accessing NHS services is set to increase to £400 later this year.

Kenyan nurse Evaline Omondi was forced to send two of her children back to Kenya after she was asked to pay £3,600 in case her family needed to use the NHS during her time working in the UK.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies highlighted Ms Omondi's case in her keynote speech to RCN congress yesterday.

‘It can't be right’

In a debate on the issue later that day, Ms Omondi urged RCN members to demand an end to the surcharge. 

She said it was unfair for overseas nurses to be asked to help prop up the NHS budget through the fee.

‘If funding is a challenge to the government, then it is only fair for the government to face it,’ she said.

‘It can’t be right that the whole burden is pushed to a minority population who merely survive on a little pay.’

Mixed views

RCN Lothian branch member Geoff Earl said it was unfair for overseas nurses to be essentially charged twice to access the NHS – once through taxation and again via the surcharge.

However, RCN inner south east London branch member Shirley Ali cautioned: ‘The NHS does not have a magic money tree, nor does it have a bottomless purse.

‘On average let’s say a nurse qualifies at 25 and has a partner and two children. When this nurse migrates to the UK, technically four people have migrated to the UK who have never paid taxes.

‘Is it too much to pay £200 to access NHS care? I think not.’

After the debate, the motion for the RCN to lobby the government to remove the surcharge was passed. 

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