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The absurdity of charges hitting NHS doctors from overseas

This article was taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/may/14/the-absurdity-of-charges-hitting-nhs-doctors-from-overseas

By The Guardian News

Dr Terry John of the BMA responds to a report that hundreds of medics are thinking of quitting the NHS due to crippling visa and healthcare charges

As your article points out, the NHS is in the grip of a crisis, with more than 100,000 vacancies unfilled (NHS at risk of losing ‘hundreds of foreign staff over crippling fees’, 13 May). The absurdity then, that doctors choosing to come here from abroad are faced with crippling bills, is plain as day, and it is no surprise that these talented professionals caring for patients in the NHS are reconsidering their future in Britain.

As the trade union and professional body for doctors in the UK, the British Medical Association has consistently said that the visa process for overseas doctors is not only expensive but also overly burdensome and inflexible. We desperately need doctors, so why is the government putting such boundaries in the way of recruitment?

Asking doctors to pay the immigration health surcharge punishes them further. Not only are they making a valuable contribution to the NHS, but they are also effectively being charged twice as they will already be paying taxes and national insurance contributions.

Furthermore, the immigration skills surcharge – paid by hospitals and GP partnerships etc when they employ overseas doctors – takes valuable resources away from the NHS when it can least afford it, with no evidence that it is being reinvested in frontline care. Statistics show that the Treasury raised about £90m between 2017 and 2018 from this charge and, while we do not know how much of this came from NHS employers, we are yet to see whether any of this money made its way back to the health service.

Given the Brexit uncertainty, we are also concerned that EEA nationals will be subject to the same costs and bureaucracy when the new immigration system is phased in, in 2021. Any further disincentives to doctors coming to the UK would be disastrous for the NHS.
Dr Terry John
Chair, BMA international committee

 Expecting migrants to pay through the nose for the upkeep of borders and immigration offices is like expecting convicts to pay for the running of the criminal justice system. Borders and immigration are a core government function and should be taxpayer-funded. Those applying for visas should pay for the actual costs incurred in processing their applications and not a penny more. When doctors or other high-skilled migrants are deterred by the ludicrously high fees, it is ultimately the taxpayer paying the price for it – whether financially (higher recruitment costs) or otherwise (shortage of nurses, doctors, etc).
Shashank Palety
Vijayawada, India