NHS surcharge scrapped for staff

Health Surcharge for Migrant NHS Staff Finally Scrapped

Immigration Health Surcharge for NHS Staff Cancelled

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that the NHS health surcharge for migrant healthcare workers will no longer apply, admitting the “enormous contribution” migrants make in the health and social care sectors in Britain deserves recognition. 

The Immigration Health Surcharge that applies to all migrants entering the country is due to rise in October 2020, up from £400 to £625 per person per year. This will cost an average family of four seeking a 3-year visa up to £7,500 for the NHS Surcharge alone.

Campaigners have argued since the charges’ inception in 2015 that migrant NHS staff who come to work in the sector – and who are currently battling the COVID-19 crisis – ought to be exempt from the hefty fee. And last week, the Government listened.

Campaigners have argued since the charges’ inception in 2015 that migrant NHS staff who come to work in the sector – and who are currently battling the COVID-19 crisis – ought to be exempt from the hefty fee

The Home Office’s U-turn on this issue comes after widespread criticism from the public who have become outraged that the UK charges NHS staff to access healthcare despite their tax contributions, like native Britons, to the NHS through work. Critics argued that the fee is a double taxation for overseas workers, with some arguing that the fee waiver should extend beyond NHS workers and should apply to all migrants.

NHS health surcharge
Messages thanking the NHS during this time of crisis have cropped up all across the UK. [Image: Victoria Jones/PA.]

However, it is a step in the right direction: NHS workers should not need to pay a heightened levy to access the very same service that they work in.

The Conservative’s change of heart became unavoidable last week as Tory MPs became divided on the issue while the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, hounded the Prime Minister at PMQs. Refugee healthcare worker Hassan Akkad’s viral story of his experience fleeing the Syrian war and now working as a cleaner in the NHS struck a chord with the public, adding to a growing national feeling of gratitude for all healthcare staff. 

The socialist paper, Morning Star wrote: “In conditions of coronavirus crisis, the NHS has become the site of a reforged unity of working people compelled by circumstance and choice to act in the interests of the whole of society.” 

Weymann Bennett, co-convenor of Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) had planned to use social media using the hashtag #ScrapTheSurcharge.  

Bennet said: “The surcharge was a racist vote-pleaser for a government chasing after UKIP votes.” 

Labour MP and SUTR President Diane Abbott said the U-turn “shows exactly what can be achieved if we are determined to fight”, adding that they will be seeking for the charge to be removed for all migrants regardless of what sector they work in.  

NHS surcharge scrapped for staff
NHS staff have suddenly become heroes amid the COVID-19 crisis. [Image: Sopa Images via Getty Images/Huffington Post.]

The Conservatives have forced the label of ‘hero’ upon NHS and care staff, so it’s about time the Government started lifting some of the burden that it has shouldered onto migrant healthcare workers

GMB National Union, Unison Union and Migrant Voice are just some of the organisations who have spoken out against the surcharge inequality, pointing out that charges are “crippling” for so many. They have also criticised the cost of work visas for people who make vast contributions to the UK’s culture and economy. 

The Conservatives have forced the label of ‘hero’ upon NHS and care staff, so it’s about time the Government started lifting some of the burden that it has shouldered onto migrant healthcare workers. Removing the surcharge for NHS staff is just one small step in the long race towards achieving fairness for migrants in the UK, but it is one step nonetheless.