Scrap immigration health surcharge for nurses, urges RCN
Refusal to drop NHS surcharge ‘undermines the dedicated care of overseas staff’: RCN
Refusal to scrap the immigration health surcharge for healthcare staff undermines the value of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, the RCN has warned.
Government will not scrap health surcharge despite previously stating it was under review
The college’s comments follow foreign secretary Dominic Raab confirming at the 18 May daily briefing that there are no current plans to scrap the £400 fee for care sector staff.
Mr Raab’s statement comes just a few weeks after home secretary Priti Patel said the government was reviewing the immigration health surcharge for health workers.
Currently all migrants who come to the UK from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) must pay £400 each year to access NHS services, whether they use it or not.
Charge will be increased and extended to new EEA workers
But the government intends to increase the fee to £624 from October and parents will also be expected to pay £470 for each dependent child under 18 years old.
The government also intends to apply the increased fee to new EEA migrants from January 2021.
These changes are estimated to deliver an additional £150 million to the government in 2020-21, and an additional £355 million in each of the following two years, according to a House of Commons Library briefing paper on the immigration health surcharge.
RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said the fee undermines the dedicated work overseas trained nurses carry out and could exacerbate existing staff shortages.
‘The current pandemic has served to reaffirm the importance of our internationally educated staff.
Some nurses already struggling to pay current £400 fee
‘Without them here, patient care would be at risk. This charge undermines the dedicated care overseas health and care staff provide to us all,’ she said.
Urging the government to reconsider the decision, Professor Kinnair added that some nurses were already struggling to pay the current £400 fee, let alone the proposed £624.
‘We have already received devastating accounts from members who are struggling to pay the charge, and the impact that it is having on their families’ lives,’ she said.
The RCN said there are currently 77,065 non-EEA internationally educated nurses working in health and care across the UK.
Responding, a government spokesperson said front-line NHS staff and other eligible health workers are entitled to free and automatic visa extensions, including an exemption from the immigration health surcharge during the pandemic.
But they added: ‘In the longer-term it is right that we ensure a contribution is made to reflect the cost of providing NHS treatment and the surcharge has raised £900m for the NHS.’
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