The British Medical Association (BMA) has joined other health and social care groups in writing to the Prime Minister to demand clarity on the recently announced exemption of healthcare workers from the Immigration Health Surcharge, saying it must be inclusive and equal for all staff.

The Government said it would be scrapping the fee – which migrants pay to access NHS services for the duration of their visa – for healthcare workers on 21 May, but details are yet to be published.

In their joint letter the BMA, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians and Unison are demanding that the Government publicly:

  • Confirm that all health and care workers will be exempt from the charge on a permanent basis. This includes those employed in the NHS, independent settings and the social care sector;
  • Confirm that the spouses and dependants of health and care workers will also be exempt from the charge; and
  • Confirm that health and care staff that have paid the charge in advance will be appropriately refunded.

BMA lobbied to have this 'punitive and absurd' fee scrapped

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “Our international colleagues were hugely relieved when the Government made the long overdue decision to scrap this unfair charge for healthcare workers, recognising the vital contribution that overseas staff make to the NHS.

“However, three weeks’ later many will be increasingly anxious having heard nothing more. Doctors renewing visas are continuing to be charged and we need action now.

“It’s crucial, if we are to show how much we truly value our overseas staff, that the Government publicly commits to excluding all health and care workers from the charge, as well as their families, and confirms that those who have already paid the fee will receive a rebate. There is no point scrapping the charge for individuals if they are still forced to pay thousands of pounds for their families or have already spent great sums to cover their visa for years to come."

He added that the BMA persistently lobbied to have this punitive and absurd fee scrapped for their members and their colleagues and we will not stop until we have a system that is fair, right and leaves no international doctor worse off for contributing their valuable skills and expertise to the NHS and its patients.