Confirmation of immigration health surcharge exemption positive – but system must apply equally to all, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 14 July 2020

The BMA says the Government’s confirmation that international doctors arriving on the new Health and Care Visa will not pay the immigration health surcharge is a positive step, especially as the exemption includes their families – as called for by the Association.

However, the BMA is concerned that all health and social care workers are not being treated equally, with those outside the scope of the visa – including many in the care sector – being asked to pay upfront and with no clarity about their dependents.

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 were only published today.

It has now been confirmed that the exemption will apply to health and social care staff who apply for the new Health and Care Visa and their dependents, and those who have paid the charge since 31 March will be refunded.

But those ineligible for the new visa will continue to pay the charge upfront, with a reimbursement scheme not expected to begin until October.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“Our international colleagues, who continue to make a vital contribution to the NHS and social care sector, were hugely relieved back in May when the Government made the long overdue decision to scrap this unfair charge for them – something the BMA had led the campaign on since the fee’s introduction. However, since then they were faced with a vacuum of further information.

“It’s therefore positive we have clarity in some areas and that the exemption will be extended to doctors’ family members, as called for by the BMA. It’s good to hear that some doctors are already being reimbursed and we would urge the Government to ensure that all refunds are dealt with swiftly.

“However, the Government says that those who fall outside of the Health and Care Visa – including a large proportion of care workers – will have to continue paying up front and have to wait until October for news on reimbursement. It’s also unclear whether their families will be exempt.

“The BMA believes that all health and social care workers provide invaluable services in an incredibly overstretched system, and therefore this policy should apply to all equally.

“The Covid-19 crisis has shone a light on the vital work that our international colleagues do, including those working in social care, and tragically, the price that some workers have paid, becoming unwell with the virus and sadly in some cases dying.

“It’s high time that their dedication, compassion and skills are recognised.”

Meanwhile, the BMA has this week written to the Prime Minister2 urging him to grant automatic Indefinite Leave to Remain to international doctors currently working in the UK on Tier 1 and Tier 2 visas, and their dependents, free of charge.

Dr Nagpaul writes:

“These doctors, already on route to settlement in the UK, deserve to be rewarded for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic by removing the financial and bureaucratic barriers to applying for residency – which currently sit at £2,389 for the main applicant. It would be a strong statement of your personal gratitude for the heroism they have shown as our country faces its biggest crisis since the second world war.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union 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. BMA letter to the Prime Minister, 13.07.2020