Politics

Boris Johnson branded ‘inhumane’ over NHS fee for immigrant medical staff

Boris Johnson has been branded "inhumane" over plans to increase the NHS surcharge to £625 for immigrant workers – and extend the fee to all medical staff from the EU.

The Tories announced on Sunday their plans to increase the charge from £400 to £625.

They also plan to extend the fee to all medical workers including doctors, nurses and ancillary staff who come to work for the NHS from the EU.

The fee already applied to migrant workers from non-EU countries. Workers also pay tax and national insurance contributions.

If the charge is increased to £625 per year, it will have tripled since it was first introduced by the Tories in 2015 in a bid to stop "health tourism".

The Royal College of Nursing [RCN], British Medical Association [BMA] and Royal College of Physicians have blasted the plans, calling them short-sighted.

Writing to Boris Johnson , the organisations said the move was "inhumane" and would hinder recruitment to the already under-staffed NHS.

They said the fee would deter medical professionals from moving to the UK and taking up roles within the NHS.

The increased fee means the average family of two adults and two children would be expected to pay £2,500 per year for the NHS.

In the letter, shared with the Guardian, the organisations tell Johnson the NHS is struggling with 100,000 vacancies "covering all professions".

They call for all healthcare professionals to be exempted from “the pernicious” charge and say it expected “no less from whichever party forms the next UK government”.

The letter states the fee is an unfair burden for nurses, who earn an average salary of £23,137 per year and junior doctors, whose annual pay ranges from £27,000 to £46,000. 

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Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the BMA’s ruling council said: “The Conservative party recently pledged an NHS visa to make it easier for overseas staff to work here but, with this latest policy, they would be doing the exact opposite.

"This shows a clear lack of judgement that risks exacerbating the current workforce crisis in the NHS.

“The government is wrongly implying that migrants don’t pay tax like everybody else when, under this scheme, they will be paying twice for NHS treatment.

"If they were serious about improving access to healthcare, they would scrap the surcharge and ensure that the NHS is fully funded and free at the point of use.

“The health surcharge does nothing but penalise doctors who are choosing to come to the UK and work in an understaffed, underfunded and under-resourced NHS; doctors who enable the NHS to provide essential care to patients on a daily basis.

“After the government doubled the fee in January [from £200 to £400 a head per year], it adds insult to injury to hear proposals to increase it further still.

“While no doctor, irrespective of country of origin, should be paying the charge, it beggars belief that politicians want to extend it to more medics [from the EU27] after Brexit despite the NHS facing the worst workforce crisis it’s ever seen.”

Dame Donna Kinnair Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN said: “Forcing hard-working nurses from overseas and their families to pay a £400-year fee for NHS services is already an inhumane and immoral policy, particularly given that NHS staff already pay for the service through their taxes.

“But increasing that sum to £625 a year and extending it for the first time to EU staff, would be ridiculously short-sighted given the number of vacant nursing posts in the health service health and care system.

“It makes no sense to put up barriers to staff coming into the UK to work in our services, and this policy is heartless and cruel to staff who have to make decisions about what is best for their families.”

The Royal College of Nursing branded the plans "ridiculously short-sighted".

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