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08.01.19

Campaigners ‘desolate’ after Home Office doubles charge for migrants to use the NHS

The Home Office has doubled the charge migrants must pay to use the NHS in a move criticised for the impact the payment will have on migrant NHS workers and young people who have been in the UK since childhood.

Doubling the standard Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) today from £200 to £400 a year will bring much-needed funds to the NHS, according to the Home Office, but some have criticised the extra charge saying it will hurt migrant NHS workers and families with children the most.

Fees have now gone up by a total of 238% since 2014, with the Home Office arguing that the health surcharge increase will allow for “sustaining and protecting” the UK’s healthcare system— and that parliament agrees and has approved the order.

General secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Dame Donna Kinnair, told Sky News that the “immoral fees” could “tear families apart.”

“While overstretched health services cope with 42,000 nursing vacancies, the government is creating more barriers for international nurses by doubling the charge they must pay to work in the UK," she said.

“They already contribute financially through National Insurance and taxation, not to mention the work they do to care for us and our loved ones. The extra charges required by the surcharge are the last thing they need.”

Campaign group ‘Let Us Learn’ has been protesting the fee increase since May 2018 and has repeatedly requested a meeting with Caroline Nokes, the minister of state for immigration, to discuss the increase which will “likely rip people away from their homes and families.”

Let us Learn responded to the IHS increase today saying it was “absolutely desolate” that the increase had gone ahead.

Last year Nokes wrote to Dami Makinde, a member and co-lead of the group, saying she had listened with “great concern” to worries about fees but explained that because young people use the NHS as much as adults it was “only fair that the government should include them while planning for the cost of care.”

Makinde, who is 25 and has lived in the UK for 17 years, said: “We are absolutely desolate that the health surcharge increase has gone ahead.

“The government says it has learned the lessons of Windrush, but they clearly haven’t. For the past year, we have been telling them that they are sowing the seeds for another scandal, only this time it will be young people like me, rather than migrants approaching retirement, who belong in the UK who will be ripped away from their homes and families and threatened with detention or removal.”

Image credit - georgeclerk

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