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More penalties for UK-based overseas doctors, says BMA

International health surcharge to double to £400

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 12 October 2018

The BMA has criticised the government’s decision to double the annual International Health Surcharge (IHS) that all long-term migrant people living in the UK must pay to access the NHS.

Doing so will further penalise international doctors who are working for the NHS, says the trade union.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes said in a written statement delivered in the House of Commons yesterday that the IHS – first introduced in April 2015 – would double from £200 to £400.

The IHS applies to non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals subject to immigration control seeking to reside in the UK to work, study, or join family members for more than six months.

People who pay the charge can access the NHS on the same basis as UK residents for the duration of their lawful stay.

Ms Nokes said: “Our NHS is always there when you need it, paid for by British taxpayers. We welcome long-term migrants using the NHS, but believe it is right that they make a fair contribution to its long-term sustainability. That is why we introduced the Immigration Health Surcharge.”

So far, the IHS had raised more than £600m and the money had been distributed to the Department of Health and Social Care and the health ministries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for health spending, in line with the Barnett formula.

Currently, the IHS is set at £200 per annum for most temporary migrant categories, with a discounted rate of £150 per annum for students and the youth mobility category.

The minister said that these rates have not changed since the IHS was introduced.

In February, the government first announced its intention to double the IHS following a review by the Department of Health and Social Care of the evidence regarding the average cost to the NHS of treating surcharge payers.

“That review found that the average annual cost of NHS usage by those paying the surcharge is around £470 and that doubling the IHS could generate an additional £220m a year for the NHS across the UK,” said Ms Nokes.

The proposed new amount was still below full average cost recovery level and remained a good deal for those seeking to live in the UK temporarily, she added, saying that the changes did not affect permanent residents, who were not required to pay the IHS.

Certain vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers and modern slavery victims were also exempt from paying the IHS.

“Today we have laid before parliament in accordance with section 38 of the Immigration Act 2014, ‘The Immigration (Health Charge) (Amendment) Order 2018’. The Order, which is subject to the affirmative procedure, seeks to double the IHS to £400 per annum.”

The BMA said it wanted doctors to be exempt from the charge and its council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said: “This policy will do nothing but further penalise international doctors who are choosing to work in an understaffed, underfunded and under-resourced NHS.

“These doctors are delivering key health services and already paying tax and national insurance contributions. It is absurd that immigration policies continue to seek to penalise overseas medics in the middle of the worst recruitment crisis the NHS has seen.”

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