The UK’s oldest medical union slammed the government’s proposals to raise the amount migrant workers pay to utilize the state healthcare system in order to support public-sector salary rises on Saturday.
The Prime Minister’s administration agreed recommendations this week to raise teacher, doctor, and police pay by 5.0 to 7.0 percent.
Sunak ruled out raising taxes or borrowing from the government to fund the increase, instead claiming that increases in the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) and visa fees would raise £1 billion.
physicians in Unite, which represents junior physicians, general practitioners, and hospital consultants, were “appalled” by the plan, which would require migrants to pay twice as much to access the NHS.
Most employees in the UK have National Insurance contributions deducted at source on their salaries, which pays for the National Health Service, as well as state pension and unemployment schemes.
“Just like other workers, migrants contribute to NHS funding through general taxation. Doubling the NHS surcharge to over £1,200 ($1,570) per year is an unjust additional penalty,” Doctors in Unite said.
“Migrants are effectively ‘taxed twice’ to access the same service,” it added, calling the move “immoral and divisive”.
The IHS, initially brought in to prevent “medical tourism”, is now paid by most migrants under tighter post-Brexit entry rules.
It is paid per person in addition to visa fees for stays of more than six months.
Over-18s pay £624 per year while students and under-18s pay £470 per year.
The government has proposed raising the IHS for adults to £1,035, and £776 at the reduced rate.
Work and visit visas will climb by 15%, while student and leave-to-remain visas, among others, will rise by at least 20%.
According to official data issued in May, net migration in the UK will reach a record 606,000 in 2022, putting additional pressure on the government, which has committed to reduce reliance on foreign labor.
Sunak has called legal immigration as “too high,” and he is also dealing with a surge in asylum requests by migrants crossing the Channel in small boats.
Critics say that the IHS rises, which will be paid for by individuals or businesses, will exacerbate understaffing in several industries and drive high-skilled professionals and students elsewhere.
Migrant and refugee charity Praxis has accused ministers of treating people born outside the UK as “cash cows” at a time when they were struggling to repay already high visa renewal fees.
Genomics research centre The Wellcome Sanger Institute said it spent more than £300,000 in immigration fees for its employees in 2022.
“These proposed increases create further barriers for global talent… and will have a detrimental effect on UK and global science,” said head of policy Sarion Bowers.