GP trainees still paying thousands for NHS levy Boris Johnson promised to scrap

GP trainees are among overseas NHS staff continuing to face demands for thousands of pounds under the government's immigration health surcharge - more than a month after prime minister Boris Johnson promised to scrap the levy.

Parliament (Photo: Getty Images)
Parliament (Photo: Getty Images)

Shadow home office minister Holly Lynch told parliament this week that dozens of doctors working in the NHS continued to be forced to pay the levy, particularly as they moved roles and had to apply for a new visa. One doctor had been forced to pay the charge as recently as 24 June.

Ms Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax, told MPs: 'I heard from Dr Ahmed Bani Sadara, from Pakistan, who is working in orthopaedics but starts his GP training in August. His change in visa means that, on 1 June, he had to pay the health surcharge for himself, his wife and his six-month-old daughter, having already been asked to pay the charge for his daughter when she was born in this country just six months ago.'

The surcharge currently costs £400 per person and is charged to people coming into the UK from outside the EU to work or study. It is set to rise to £624 from October and to be levied from thousands of EU workers in addition to those from outside the EU once Brexit goes ahead at the end of the year.

The prime minister performed a sharp U-turn last month, announcing on 22 May that the charge would be dropped for overseas health and care workers - just 24 hours after insisting in the House of Commons that maintaining the charge was 'the right way forward'.

Immigration health surcharge

However, Ms Lynch said in a debate on the government's immigration bill that despite demands for urgent 'practical clarification' from the BMA, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians and Unison over when the government would stop demanding the fee from NHS and social care staff, 'we are no nearer to having any insight into what progress, if any, has been made'.

Home office minister Kevin Foster said during the debate that the government would 'look into exempting eligible workers in health and social care from having to pay the immigration health surcharge, as announced by the prime minister'.

Mr Johnson's policy reversal followed intense criticism from opposition politicians and health leaders. The BMA has said the imposition of a health surcharge on staff working in the NHS is 'unfair and illogical' - pointing out that because these workers already pay tax and national insurance, the fee effectively forces them to pay twice to use the very services they help to run.

Challenging the prime minister over the charge a day before his U-turn, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said staff working in health and care roles were 'risking their lives for the sake of all of us' during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He asked: 'Does the prime minister think it’s right that care workers coming from abroad and working on our frontline should have to pay a surcharge of hundreds – sometimes thousands of pounds – to use the NHS themselves?'

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