MPs call for fairer deal for overseas health and care staff
Foreign nationals working in the health and care sector in the UK should get a better deal from the Government in recognition of the key role they have played in combating the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report published today by a key cross-party committee of MPs.
Welcoming the commitment by the Prime Minister on 21 May to waive the £400 per year Immigration Health Surcharge for all foreign NHS and social care workers, the Commons Home Affairs Committee called on the Government to be equally generous with emergency visa extensions. Currently, only some overseas NHS workers will have their UK work visas automatically extended by one year because of the crisis caused by the pandemic. Many who have been excluded from this are in lower-paid NHS jobs. The MPs want the visa extension to include all foreign nationals working in health and care.
Midwives were excluded from the Government’s original visa extension plan. It was only after the RCM raised this matter that ministers U-turned and included midwives who are here working in the NHS on a visa.
The £400 annual charge on foreign nationals in the UK should also be reviewed, the committee argued. Some have questioned whether foreign nationals in the UK on work visas who are already paying the same taxes as British workers should also have to pay a large additional fee to use healthcare services.
As well as the MPs' report, questions are beginning to be raised more generally about the exclusion of health and care workers from the costly charge. Almost a month after the Prime Minister announced they would be excluded, midwives and others are still having to pay. And MPs are beginning to ask questions about the Prime Minister’s promise: for example, is it permanent or just temporary?
The committee also wants the Government to create routes to UK citizenship for foreign nationals who have worked in health and care roles during the current crisis, in recognition of their service.
Following today's publication of the committee report, the next step is for the Government to consider the MPs' recommendations and publish a response.