Home Office has doubled NHS charge for immigrants
Starting 8th January 2019, immigrants in the United Kingdom will be charged twice the standard amount to use the NHS. The UK Immigration Health Surcharge has now gone up from £200 to £400 per year of leave. This will affect a wide range of foreign citizens, including those who have lived within the country since childhood.
Immigrant nurses who work for the National Health Service are not exempt from this price increase. The Royal College of Nursing has appealed to the Home Office to waive charges for NHS staff and their families.
This new policy has also been criticised by UK immigration advocates and has raised concerns over how an already struggling NHS will cope with its effect on staff numbers. However, the Home Office has stated that the rise is designed to help the service bring in much-needed funds.
There are concerns in several communities that those unable to pay will risk losing their status and potentially be removed. Young people in particular will feel the effects of the price increase. The organisation Let Us Learn has condemned the fees and blamed such increases for restricting the education of foreign students.
In 2017 immigration minister Caroline Nokes stated her support for the new charges, commenting that it was “only fair” that young people should pay more for the NHS. However, she also showed sympathy for those who will struggle as a result of the increase.
The cost of living as an immigrant in the United Kingdom appears to be constantly growing. The new NHS fees are yet another economic barrier for those who wish to live and work in this country. Foreign workers already have to pay tax and UK visa charges. This creates economic and psychological pressure that some are unable to cope with. One foreign worker told Sky News that these costs have alienated immigrants and made them feel like “outsiders”.
Dame Donna Kinnair, of the Royal College of Nursing, has called the fees “immoral” and warned of their potential to “tear families apart”. There are growing fears that this could lead to a new Windrush scandal. In response, the government has defended their decision by citing a desire to protect the “long-term sustainability” of the NHS.