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Help end NHS fees for overseas doctors, campaigners tell medical institutions

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l2348 (Published 28 May 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l2348
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. The BMJ

NHS doctors from outside the European Union can be forced to pay £400 (€453; $507) a year to use the health service despite paying tax and national insurance, a campaign group has said.

EveryDoctor, a non-profit campaigning organisation run by doctors, has written to a range of professional organisations including medical royal colleges, the BMA, and the General Medical Council to ask them to join their campaign to end these fees for doctors.1 Opposition to the fees is already part of established BMA policy.2

In a letter sent on 23 May, EveryDoctor said that 81 000 doctors from outside the EU were currently working in the UK. It said, “Despite the fact that the NHS actively recruits doctors from abroad because of understaffing problems in the NHS, these doctors are met with hefty financial charges for working within the NHS when they arrive in the UK.”

The immigration health surcharge, introduced in 2015, means that people from outside the EU must pay £400 per person per year to use the NHS.3 “This means that if a doctor arrives in the country and is supporting a spouse and two children, they have to pay £1600 a year to use the NHS despite the fact that they are already paying tax and national insurance,” said EveryDoctor.

In addition to this charge, doctors could be paying as much as £4200 in fees for a three year working visa, said the group.

Julia Patterson, psychiatrist and EveryDoctor’s founder, said, “We should be valuing and supporting every single NHS doctor in their work. Instead, over 81 000 doctors on visas are currently being financially crippled by huge financial charges despite also paying tax and national insurance contributions.

“We need to call for an immediate scrapping of the immigration health surcharge for all doctors on visas and other healthcare workers. EveryDoctor welcomes collaboration and input from all medical institutions in our pursuit of this goal.”

Responding to the call, a Home Office spokesperson said, “The latest immigration figures show a 62% increase in applications to the health and social work sector—demonstrating that the UK is continuing to attract the doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who play a vital role in supporting our communities and boosting our economy.

“It is right that they contribute to the running of the NHS, as do other providers of essential public services, such as teachers, and the income generated by the surcharge goes directly to NHS services.”

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