immigration health surcharge, legislative changes

Immigration Health Surcharge dropped for health and social care workers, and it’s about time

By Lee Emmett

​Boris Johnson has ordered for the removal of the Immigration Health Surcharge for health and social care workers. This has come after enormous pressure on the prime minister over the controversial charge, which is currently £400, and was set to rise to £624 for adults and £470 for children as of this October.

It’s due to be removed for all NHS staff including nurses, doctors and paramedics. We believe this is a big step in the right direction, and shows a promising level of commitment from the government towards our international health and social care workforce, and the recruitment process behind it.

The Immigration Health Surcharge currently raises £900 million a year towards the NHS. However Downing Street has revealed, and we at Sanctuary International know first-hand, that some NHS trusts are covering the cost of the charge for staff, meaning the health service is effectively paying to fund itself. There are no figures on the numbers of trusts making these payments, however the prime minister’s official spokesman has said, “If NHS trusts choose to do that, that’s of course a matter for them. But the money raised does go into the NHS.”

NHS trusts are recruiting more overseas staff than ever before, and positive, legislative changes like this will only increase their ability to do so. It is a shame that it’s taken something a tragic as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic for the government to remove these charges. We are seeing overseas frontline workers making huge sacrifices during the pandemic. As a country, we need to be thinking differently about how we can help them during this challenging time; ditching the surcharge is a way to do this, and will make a big difference to many workers that we support.

It is after all these people, along with other amazing frontline workers such as supermarket staff who have kept the country going during lockdown. If anything good can come out of COVID-19, it’s the relentless focus we must continue with, on how we can do more to help and support those working for our much-loved NHS.

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