The Conservatives will increase the fee paid by overseas staff including nurses to use the NHS and extend it to EU workers for the first time, if elected.
The party said increasing the international health charge to £625 will raise over £500 million a year that ‘can be put towards NHS services’. Currently, the fee is £400 paid on top of taxes.
The higher charge is billed as a way to ensure people on a work, study or family visa – who the Conservatives claim cost the NHS £625 per year on average – are making a ‘sufficient contribution’ to the health service.
However, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Dame Donna Kinnair called the charge increase ‘ridiculously short-sighted’.
She criticised the decision to extend the charge to EU staff ‘given the number of vacant nursing posts in the health service health and care system.’
Dame Donna continued: ‘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.’
This comes after the RCN condemned the surcharge being increased from £200 to £400 in December 2018, which it called a ‘crippling price to pay – especially for those who are working in our health and care services’
Commenting on the policy announcement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘As we come out of the EU, we have a new opportunity for fairness and to make sure all those who come here are treated the same. We will make our immigration system equal – whilst at the same time ensuring our fantastic public services, like the NHS, are all properly funded.
‘A majority Conservative Government will ensure that people who come to our great country from anywhere in the world have both a job to come to, and make a contribution to our NHS – so that we can protect and improve the public services we all benefit from.’
The average cost of a surcharge payer to the NHS was around £480 as of July 2018. For clarification on where the Conservatives sourced their claim that people on visas cost the NHS £625 on average, Nursing in Practice has contacted the Conservative party.