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Anger as foreign healthcare workers are betrayed

May 18, 2020 10:25 AM

oooiy (united nations)While Boris Johnson joined The Sun's campaign to Hail our Frontline worker heroes, his Home Secretary has been busy continuing to penalise a significant proportion of them.

The Independent reports https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/priti-patel-nhs-fees-foreign-health-staff-immigration-surcharge-a9517356.html that Priti Patel has sparked anger by refusing to cut or axe the huge fees paid by foreign healthcare workers to help fund the NHS - just three weeks after promising to "review" the controversial charges:

The home secretary raised expectations when she hinted at concessions for migrants working in the NHS themselves, as she praised their "extraordinary contribution" during the Covid-19 crisis.

But The Independent has now learnt there will be no changes to what ministers consider the "important" principle that everyone coming to work in the UK contributes extra for the NHS.

It means the immigration health surcharge is still due to soar from £400 a year to £624 from this October - to be and extended to all EU citizens from next January, when Brexit is completed.

Because it is also paid by spouses and children, the total cost can reach a crippling £8,000 for a family of four on a five-year work permit.

The Home Office is now saying there was no "review", beyond waiving the surcharge where visas had been extended for one year - despite Ms Patel describing it as such on national television.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the decision "beggars belief", given the public's "huge outpouring of support for our frontline staff" in recent weeks, while Labour called it "unconscionable". The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it had written to the home secretary after her announcement, but had received no reply, and insisted: "This charge must be stopped."

Health groups had long protested the surcharge as unfair because migrants paying tax and national insurance are effectively paying twice, even before the acclaim for all health staff prompted by the pandemic.

It cannot be deferred, or paid annually, but is demanded in advance for the entire duration of an applicant's visa or residency permit. Meanwhile, nurses and junior doctors in training have starting salaries of only between £18,000 and £23,000.

Around one in every seven NHS workers is foreign-born and therefore subject to this charge. So much for this government treating them like heroes.