Political parties must promise to axe the fee paid by nurses from non-EU countries to use the NHS, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned after calculating that some nurses will have to work for around a month to pay it off.
The £400 international health surcharge (IHS) – paid by migrants both for themselves and every dependent they have – comes on top of income tax and National Insurance payments, and could also apply to EU nurses after Brexit.
New analysis from the RCN has calculated an ‘IHS Freedom Day’ for nurses on a range of salaries, marking the point in the year at which they would start drawing from their salary if the charge was paid upfront.
For example, a nurse with two children at the start of a Band 5 would have to work until the 22nd January (116 hours) to pay the £1,200 they would be billed under the current charge, according to the analysis.
If the charge is increased to £625 per employee as the Conservatives promised, the same nurses would have to work until the 4th February (183 hours) before they saw any benefit from their salary.
Meanwhile, a nurse with two children at the top of Band 5, or at the start of Band 6, would have to work until 19th January under the current charge, or 29th January if the charge is increased to £625
The Conservatives have also said they would extend the charge to EU workers for the first time.
Commenting on the analysis, chief executive of the RCN Dame Donna Kinnair, said: ‘Our health and care services in the UK are stretched to breaking point, and cannot function without nursing staff from overseas.
‘But our analysis shows that a nurse with two children is currently required to give up almost a month’s take-home pay a year simply to come and work here, whether they use NHS services or not, when they already pay for the Health Service through tax and National Insurance.
‘Not only is this unjust – we also cannot afford any deterrents to staff from abroad just as nursing vacancies are hitting record levels, with 43,500 unfilled posts in the NHS in England alone.
‘Hard-working nurses from overseas who give their all for patients in the UK must not be penalised in this way any longer. Any party wanting to form the next government must commit to abolish this cruel and heartless charge for nursing staff.’
The call from the RCN comes after new data last week showed that 568,000 staff are now employed in the NHS, social care and other areas, an increase of over 100,000 since 2009/10.