Scrap ‘unjust’ immigration health surcharge for nursing staff, College urges parties

Press Release 11/12/2019

RCN calculates ‘IHS Freedom Day’ for eight different nursing bands

Any party wanting to form the next government must make an explicit commitment to rescind the current Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) for nursing staff, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warns today.  

The £400 charge is currently payable by all migrants from non-EU countries, whether they access NHS services or not, both for themselves and for every dependant they have, and despite the fact that nursing staff from overseas employed in the UK already pay for the NHS through income tax and National Insurance payments [see note 1].

The RCN’s call comes in the wake of new data last week revealing the extent to which health and care services in the UK now depend on staff from outside the EU, with 568,000 employed in the NHS, social care and other areas, an increase of over 100,000 since 2009/10. [see note 2].

A new analysis by the College calculates exactly how long nurses on a range of different salaries have to work until they reach ‘IHS Freedom Day’, analogous to ‘Tax Freedom Day’, ie the point in the year at which they would start being able to draw on their salary if the charge were paid upfront.

The analysis shows that:

  • A nurse with two children from a non-EU country taking up a post in the UK at the start of Band 5 would have to work from the start of the year until 22nd January, or for 116 hours, just to pay the £1,200 they will be billed under the current charge
  • If the charge is increased to £625 per employee and dependant [see note 1], the same nurse would have to work until 4th February, or 183 hours, before they saw any benefit from their salary
  • 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

Commenting on the analysis, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, 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”. 

Ends

Notes to Editors

1. The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) was introduced in April 2015, and currently stands at £400 per annum for each migrant from a non-EU country, plus £400 for each dependant.  The Conservative Party pledged in a press release issued on 17th November 2019 to increase the charge to £625 if elected, and for the first time extend it to employees from the EU.  The party also announced plans to allow staff to spread the cost over several months.

2. The Nuffield Trust last week published a new analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which revealed that in 2018/19, 568,000 staff from non-EU countries were employed in health and social care in the UK.  The number has increased by 108,000 since 2009/10.  Stopping the staff we need? Migration Choices in the 2019 General Election, Nuffield Trust, December 2019.

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