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New immigration charge 'could cost NHS millions of pounds'

Doctors leader have warned ministers that they must exempt health and social care professionals from an upcoming immigration charge to prevent the NHS budget losing out on millions of pounds. The new immigration charge could make NHS staff shortages worse.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the British Medical Association (BMA) says the Government’s immigration skills charge that applies a £1,000 charge per year of visa to overseas staff coming to the UK on a Tier 2 visa would result in bodies such as HEE (Health Education England) and NHS employing trusts experiencing substantial charges.

The Immigration skill charge is designed to encourage businesses to train British staff to take on skilled roles, and lessen the number of migrant workers being appointed by firms in the UK. The charge will be introduced from next month.

In a letter to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, the chief executive and general secretary of Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies and the chair of BMA council, Mark Porter warn that failing to exempt overseas health staff would strip frontline services of vital funds.

Janet Davies said the Immigration skill charge could risk " turning off the supply of qualified overseas nurses at the very moment the health service is in a staffing shortage like never before.

Dr Mark Porter blamed the Government's "poor workforce planning" on leaving the National Health Service (NHS) "struggling to handle the huge and expected staff shortages" and therefore dependant on overseas recruitment.

He further added that the introduction of Immigration skill charge could take desperately required money from an already under-funded health service, worsen the present staffing problems, and effect the level of care that hospitals are able to provide to patients.

Both RCN and NHS said there are already checks in place to guarantee UK and EU nationals are offered roles first, and said overseas medical professional are recruited when posts cannot be filled.

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