Health charge for overseas nurses risks undermining recruitment

12 Dec 2018

Doubling the charge that nurses from overseas have to pay to be allowed to use the NHS as patients is unjust and risks worsening the current shortage of nursing staff in the North West.

That’s the damning verdict of the RCN North West on the Government’s intention to raise the Immigration Health Surcharge from £200 to £400 a year. The charge is payable by non-EU nationals holding a general visa to work in the UK but the RCN is calling for nurses to be exempt from the levy – which they also have to pay for each of any children they have.

The union fears the measure will discourage foreign nurses from joining or staying in the profession in the North West when they are urgently needed due to falling numbers of nursing students and nursing staff from EU countries.

RCN North West is highlighting a 27.5% rise over the past two years in the number of nursing job vacancies being advertised by North West NHS trusts as a clear sign of the staff shortage.

Figures show 5,142 vacant registered nursing and midwifery NHS posts in the North West were advertised between January and March this year, up from 3,726 for the same period in 2016. 

Estephanie Dunn, Regional Director of the RCN North West, said: “The very people who provide the health care on which patients depend should be the last people to have to pay an extra tax, on top of their National Insurance, income tax and council tax, to be able to access NHS care themselves.

“These fees are unjust. They can not only tear families apart, separating mother from child where staying together is unaffordable, they also risk deterring non-EU nurses from coming to work or continuing to work here, thus undermining efforts by employers to recruit and retain them.

“For hospitals and other NHS providers who are already struggling to deploy enough staff to maintain consistently good standards of patient care, this is the last thing they need.” 

The RCN is calling on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to waive the charge for nursing staff. The charge, applicable to workers from outside the European Economic Area or EEA, is intended to offset the cost of foreign workers using NHS services in the UK.

Page last updated - 19/05/2019