BMA demands guarantees from Government over health surcharge exemption

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Wednesday 10 June 2020

The British Medical Association (BMA) has joined other health and social care groups in writing to the Prime Minister to demand clarity on the recently announced exemption of healthcare workers from the Immigration Health Surcharge, saying it must be inclusive and equal for all staff.

The Government said it would be scrapping the fee – which migrants pay to access NHS services for the duration of their visa – for healthcare workers on 21 May, but details are yet to be published.

In their joint letter1 the BMA, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians and Unison are demanding that the Government publicly:

  • Confirm that all health and care workers will be exempt from the charge on a permanent basis. This includes those employed in the NHS, independent settings and the social care sector;
  • Confirm that the spouses and dependants of health and care workers will also be exempt from the charge; and
  • Confirm that health and care staff that have paid the charge in advance will be appropriately refunded.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“Our international colleagues were hugely relieved when the Government made the long overdue decision to scrap this unfair charge for healthcare workers, recognising the vital contribution that overseas staff make to the NHS.

“However, three weeks’ later many will be increasingly anxious having heard nothing more.

“Doctors renewing visas are continuing to be charged and we need action now.

“It’s crucial, if we are to show how much we truly value our overseas staff, that the Government publicly commits to excluding all health and care workers from the charge, as well as their families, and confirms that those who have already paid the fee will receive a rebate .

“There is no point scrapping the charge for individuals if they are still forced to pay thousands of pounds for their families or have already spent great sums to cover their visa for years to come.

“The BMA persistently lobbied to have this punitive and absurd fee scrapped for our members and their colleagues and we will not stop until we have a system that is fair, right and leaves no international doctor worse off for contributing their valuable skills and expertise to the NHS and its patients.”

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said:

“We have consistently campaigned for this charge to be scrapped. It has always been unfair for health and care staff effectively to pay twice to use the very service they work in.

“We welcomed the commitment to remove the charge but now we need assurances that this will apply to all health and care workers and their families.

“The contribution of our overseas nurses, across all settings, has been incredible particularly during the pandemic and it is essential this can continue.

“Action must be taken now to ensure all those who come here to dedicate themselves to our patients are not penalised for doing so.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Read the full letter here.

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