Government doubles immigration health surcharge for foreign health workers

Guy’s NHS Hospital

There are fears that government plans to double the immigration health surcharge for foreign health workers are not going to help the NHS crisis in staff recruitment.

The immigration health surcharge was introduced in 2015 and is payable by people outside the European Economic area who are seeking to live in the UK for six months or more.

People paying are often joining spouses, partners or taking up skilled jobs.

The government intends to double the amount from £200 to £400 per year per person.

It is estimated that this would raise an extra £220 million for the NHS.

Public debate tends to link discussions on the health surcharge to ‘Health Tourism’, where people come into the UK,  for a short period of time to specifically access NHS services and then return home.

The surcharge is actually paid before a visa is issued so there is no opportunity for avoidance.

Many spouses, partners and skilled workers will also pay National Insurance and  tax on top of the surcharge.

Dr.  Adigun is an overseas doctor:

Overseas health workers must adhere to strict processes before being issued with a visa to work in the NHS.

The NHS accepts it is facing many challenges including a serious shortage of doctors, nurses, radiographers etc.

According to a recent workforce report by NHS Providers, the trade association for the NHS, EU nurses as a percentage of known nationality staff are down by 0.3%  from june 2016.

European Union hospital doctors are down by  0.1%.

The government plans to boost domestic supply by training more doctors, nurses and radiographers but this will take some years to have an impact.

The NHS Providers report says 85% of trust leaders would like to recruit from overseas for the next three years.

The report details the need for an immigration policy which supports NHS trusts to recruit and retain staff from around the world to fill posts that cannot be filled by domestic staff.
According to Paul Myatt, Policy Advisor at Workforce, NHS Providers:

An irony of the health surcharge, however, is that while it may add a couple of hundred million to NHS funds, it also makes it harder for trusts to recruit much needed health workers from overseas.

The need to recruit overseas staff has become more acute as we move towards Brexit.
Paul Myatt again:

Patients and trusts who care for them need government to commit to immigration policy which support trusts to recruit and retain health workers to fill posts that cannot be filled by domestic workers in the short to medium term.

The key question being raised is whether doubling the surcharge is sending the wrong signal in NHS recruitment policy.




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