Immigration Health Surcharge: an unwelcome Christmas present

 Cecilia Anim CBE 29 Nov 2018 Cecilia Anim

Hitting migrant health care workers with this punitive charge is quite simply the wrong thing to do, says Cecilia Anim.

Immigration Health Surcharge
I’ve explained how, without their input, there simply wouldn’t be enough staff to provide the safe care patients expect.
The vacancy rate of registered nurses in the NHS is already alarmingly high – around 42,000 at the last count – so the news, last week, that MPs had voted to increase the Immigration Health Surcharge from £200 to up to £400 for thousands of migrant health care workers, dealt another depressing blow to anyone monitoring the nursing workforce crisis.
The charge – applicable to nursing staff outside the European Economic Area (or EEA) – is intended to offset the cost of foreign workers using NHS services in the UK. Not only is this paid by the person working as, say, a nurse, but by all of their dependents too, meaning, for a typical four person family, it could be in excess of £1,600 per year.
The Government expects this change to rake in an additional £220 million, to be spent, it says, on the NHS.
However, the irony of charging a new, higher amount to the very people we’ve recruited to help prop up our ailing health service is not lost on me, or any of our 435,000 members.
The message from the nursing community is loud and clear: the Immigration Health Surcharge is a short-sighted measure and one that will drive away talented nursing staff at the time we need them most.
It’s for this reason that we’re calling on the Government, and in particular Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP and Caroline Noakes MP, to waive the fee – in its entirety – for nursing staff entering the UK and their dependents.
Since the RCN ramped up its campaign to coincide with last week’s vote in the House of Commons, I’ve been overwhelmed by the level of support, not only from RCN members but from the public too, who’ve written to their MPs in their thousands.
Your response is the clearest indication yet that hitting migrant health care workers with this punitive charge is quite simply the wrong thing to do.
The increase will come into effect in December this year, an unwelcome Christmas present to vital nursing staff trying to get by in a health service without enough staff and not enough future nurses coming through, either.
News this week that settled status for EU nursing staff has been secured is a crumb of comfort at an increasingly worrying time for our health and social care services.
We must not let the Immigration Health Surcharge be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
It's time to waive the fee for nursing staff and their dependents.

Lobby your MP to waive the Immigration Health Surcharge for nursing staff

Cecilia Anim

Cecilia Anim CBE

Former RCN President


Cecilia works as a clinical nurse specialist in sexual and reproductive health in London and specialises in family planning and aspects of women's health. She was elected RCN President in 2015, having been a member for more than 30 years, and was made a CBE in the 2017 New Year honours.

Page last updated - 20/12/2018