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Hackney groups call for NHS immigrants fee to be abolished

PUBLISHED: 17:29 02 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:34 02 June 2020

Immigrants have to pay a surcharge to use the NHS. Picture: Ken Mears

Immigrants have to pay a surcharge to use the NHS. Picture: Ken Mears

Archant

A team of campaigning Hackney groups have called for the government to abolish the “hefty” NHS surcharge.

Hackney’s Keep Our NHS Public, Trades Council, Migrant Centre, Unite and GMB branches, and Unison’s Homerton Hospital and government arms have signed a joint letter asking for the £400 immigration health surcharge paid alongside visa applications to be dropped.

The letter, which is addressed to Hackney MPs, City and Hackney CCG, Hackney Council and Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says the fee is part of a “hostile environment” to immigration.

“By its concession that overseas health and care workers should be exempt after all, the government has acknowledged that there is an uncomfortable and unjust disjuncture between the selfless work of staff from overseas who pay the same taxes as we do and the fact they have to pay hefty fees to use the NHS,” it says.

“But the same argument applies to other frontline workers, such as in transport, cleaning, retail and delivery services who also should not have to pay twice, once through fees and once through taxation.”

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It makes a series of demands, such as asking Homerton to publicise that treatment for coronavirus is free.

Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier described the surcharge as a “dog’s breakfast”: “It is milking everyone who enters the UK for a flat rate charge which in most cases is more than the travel insurance that tourists will have anyway and is now a crippling fee for a family entering the UK to work.”

Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, said: “It is hypocritical of government ministers to applaud essential workers each Thursday for their great work, and then impose increased charges on when they or their families need the NHS themselves.”

Homerton stressed although it recognises “the strength of feeling locally”, it is constrained by national policy.

A government spokesperson said it may soon change: “The Prime Minister has made it clear NHS and care workers should be removed from the immigration health surcharge as soon as possible and further details will be announced shortly.”

Hackney Council and Hackney CCG were contacted for comment.


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