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Scrap health surcharge for NHS workers from overseas

Alain Catzeflis outlines an outrageous abuse of foreign health workers by the UK Government and has established a petition to change this policy:

Foreign health workers are risking their lives to save ours - and paying for the privilege

This must stop – Now. Sign the petition

When Boris Johnson left hospital after contracting Covid-19 he praised the staff who looked after him. “They saved my life. No question” said the PM.

He made particular mention of two NHS nurses, one from Portugal one from New Zealand, both immigrants - who sat by his bedside and watched over him in those critical hours when it could "have gone either way." They were there every second of every hour for two days.

We don’t know if Jenny McGee from New Zealand and Luis Pitarma from Portugal are here on a working visa or residents. But if it’s the former they would subject to what a former adviser to Kofi Annan described as a “grotesque” health surcharge. Ed Mortimer, Fellow of All Souls, Oxford and speechwriter to the former UN Secretary General said: “It’s grotesque that these people should be made to pay, especially when we need them so badly.”

For those who did not know - and I confess I didn’t - NHS doctors and nurses from overseas putting their lives at risk to keep us alive have to pay the NHS immigrants surcharge for foreigners on a visa which at the moment is £400 a year and is due to go up to £624. 

There is no right of deferral, or ability to pay annually. It has to be paid in advance for the entire duration of an applicant’s visa or residency permit.

This means that if an NHS worker has a family on his or her residency permit, such as a spouse and children, they must pay the surcharge for them as well - for the entire duration of the visa. So a family of four on a five-year work permit or limited leave to remain visa has to pay £8,000. 

The surcharge was introduced as part of creating a ‘hostile environment’ by the coalition government in 2015. It is intended, like all these punitive initiatives, to demonstrate that the government is being tough on immigration - the single biggest factor that led to Brexit. 

Intended to crack down on medical tourism it has in reality hit the very people who are now working on the frontline and sometimes giving their lives to keep us safe from Covid-19.

The government insists the charge is ‘fair.’ It is paid by all those who are not ‘ordinarily resident’. But these are not wealthy health tourists. They include large numbers of health workers who already pay VAT, taxes and National Insurance. 

NHS doctors, nurses and care workers from outside the EU spend the years between visa renewals fretting, saving and borrowing to pay for the cost of their next permit. The sums are crippling, particularly for junior doctors in training and nurses. Often they fall into debt to pay the charges. Some of them simply leave the country once their permits are up for renewal, unable to find the money. 

All of which adds to the gap in doctors and nurses in the NHS, slashed during years of austerity. The Nuffield Trust estimates that the NHS is short of just under 100,000 staff. 

Stop this injustice.

Sign the petition and please share, visit:

https://www.change.org/p/the-prime-minister-stop-making-overseas-nhs-workers-pay-surcharge

And, see this article in The Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/19/foreign-nhs-workers-coronavirus-frontline-nhs-surcharge