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Scrap ‘devastating’ NHS surcharge for healthcare staff, RCN warns

The Royal College of Nursing has condemned the Government’s decision not to scrap the fee that international healthcare staff, including nurses, pay to use the NHS.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced on Monday that there were no plans to exempt migrant healthcare staff from the fee, due to rise from £400 per adult per year to £624 in October.

The RCN yesterday wrote to home secretary Priti Patel, urging her to end the charge as a ‘matter of urgency’. It has been arguing this policy change for over two years.

RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said: ‘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.

‘Without [international staff], patient care would be at risk. This charge undermines the dedicated care overseas health and care staff provide to us all.’

The International Health Surcharge – paid by migrants both for themselves and every dependent they have - comes on top of income tax and National Insurance payments.

In the build-up to the election in December last year, the Conservatives announced they would increase the fee paid by overseas staff to £624 and extend it to EU workers for the first time to ensure that migrants were making a ‘sufficient contribution’ to the health service.

The average cost of a migrant to the NHS was around £480 as of July 2018, although the Government argues that they each cost the NHS £624 per year on average.

Dame Donna continued: ‘We are urging the home secretary to reconsider and waive this charge for healthcare staff from overseas as a matter of urgency. The current pandemic has served to reaffirm the importance of our internationally educated staff.’

Earlier this month, it was revealed one in three adults would now consider working for the NHS because of its response to the Covid-19 outbreak.