Thank you for contacting me about the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement that NHS and care workers will be exempted from this fee as soon as possible, as a testament to their inspirational work throughout this crisis.
This special case aside, I believe that overseas visitors should be able to access our NHS as long as they make a fair contribution, just as the British taxpayer does. The NHS is a national - not an international - health service and I commend the Government’s determination to stamp out misuse of the system to ensure it remains free at the point of need in this country.
After a review of the evidence, the annual surcharge will now cost £624 per annum, with a discounted rate of £470pa for children in recognition of the increased financial impact on family groups. I believe this represents a fair deal, given the range of NHS services temporary visitors will be able to use without further charge. The UK must protect its reputation as a great place to live, work and study, and increasing the IHS still offers access to far more comprehensive services at a lower cost than some of our main competitor countries.
The IHS applies to those living in the UK temporarily. Those with indefinite leave to remain and vulnerable groups, including asylum seekers and refugees, are exempt from the charge. It is only right that people who come to the UK for more than six months should contribute to the running of the NHS.
This charge was brought in to ensure that temporary users of the NHS from outside the EEA are making a fair contribution to the functioning of our national asset, regardless of their employment status. Although some temporary migrants will be paying tax and National Insurance contributions, they will not have made the same financial contribution to the NHS which most UK nationals and permanent residents have made, or will make, over the course of their working lives. It is therefore fair to require them to make an up-front and proportionate contribution to the NHS.
Providers of NHS care should assure themselves that they do everything reasonable to determine a patient’s eligibility for NHS-funded healthcare, which is based on residency, not nationality. However, urgent treatment will never be withheld, irrespective of whether a patient is chargeable or not. Charges would still apply, but should be pursued after the treatment has been provided. By recovering more money from overseas visitors who are not eligible for free care, money can then be reinvested into patient care.
I will continue to monitor this issue closely as more details emerge.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP