IHS and the staffing crisis
The RCN has again called the government to scrap the “cruel and heartless” Immigration Health Surcharge for nurses. It has been revealed that nurses will have to work for almost a month in order to cover the IHS charges. At a time when the NHS has a shocking 40,000 vacant nurse positions which they are struggling to fill, is IHS deterring overseas nurses from joining our workforce?
How overseas nurses help?
Recent research showed that the number of foreign nurses joining the NHS over 2018/2019 has risen from 3525 to 7125. Each political party has pledged in some way to use nurses from abroad in some way to assist the current staffing crisis within the NHS. The Conservatives have stated plans to hire 12,500 foreign nurses if the votes go their way on December 12th.
The number of qualified nurses coming from EU based countries is much lower than those joining the NHS from outside of the EU. Although at present EU based nurses are not hit with the IHS fee, this is not going to be the case when Brexit hits; meaning even more nurses will struggle to fund the move over to the UK to help staffing figures within the NHS.
What is IHS?
Immigration Health Surcharge is part of the immigration process and whether you need to pay this fee depends on the status of immigration you are applying for. You pay for IHS while you are making your immigration application and this fee means you are able to use the NHS while you are in the UK. Although this means health care is covered and most do believe that immigrants should pay to use our healthcare service, it is argued that nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals joining the service from abroad should not have to pay for health care when helping the NHS.
The cost for nurses
The RCN report that a band 5 EU nurse with two children would have to work a total of 116 hours to pay the £1200 fee for IHS. The current cost for IHS is £400 per year for all immigration applications and dependants will be the same price on top of the initial fee. With the election looming, it must be stated that certain political parties wish to up the cost of IHS to as much as £625 per person. If the IHS fee is increased to the proposed £625 a band 5 EU nurse with two children will have to work 183 hours before they see any benefit from their salary.
What will this do to the staffing crisis?
Our NHS is already overstretched, understaffed and experiencing considerable budget cuts. We are facing the worst staffing crisis we have ever seen with over 40,000 vacancies for nurses alone. Hospital waiting times are over 12 hours within A&E and critical care, patients are forced to wait on hospital trolleys with no beds available and GP surgery waits are up to over 2 weeks.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general Secretary of the RCN has said that the IHS charge “risked deterring much-needed nursing staff from coming to work in the UK.” Nurses coming to the UK to aid the NHS and provide a first-class service are in fact being punished to do so, being made to give up a month’s salary even if they do not use the NHS and pay health service tax through national insurance deducted from their monthly wage. It is predicted that these charges will decrease the number of foreign nurses willing to work within the UK to aid the NHS staffing crisis.
Change from December 12th?
Change is most definitely required in order to improve the number of nurses within our health service. Dame Donna Kinnair says, “Hard-working nurses from overseas who give their all for patients in the UK must not be penalised in this way any longer. Any party wanting to form the next government must commit to abolishing this cruel and heartless charge for nursing staff”.
The RCN calls on all political parties to rethink their stance on the IHS charges and have the NHS and their patients in mind. Their view is that not only are they punishing hard working nurses who are aiming to make our NHS better, but they are also punishing the British public by deterring foreign health care professionals and increasing stress on the staffing crisis.
How do you feel about the IHS charges? Do you feel this will have a negative effect on the current state of the NHS? Let us know your opinion and remember; vote on the 12th December!
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