Indian doctors in United Kingdom, who have been working within the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) have written to the country’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, asking him to scrap the unfair and discriminatory surcharge which is imposed on foreign doctors working in the country.
The Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) was introduced in April, 2015. IHS is imposed on people in UK who are on a work, study or family visa for more than six months to raise additional funds for the NHS. In the country’s Budget which had been announced early in March, Indian-origin UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak had announced that IHS would be hiked from 400 pounds to 624 pounds per year.
“We believe that this surcharge is discriminatory and unfair, as the overseas workers are already paying their due share of National Insurance contributions, superannuation and income tax”, read the letter which had been sent by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) to Boris Johnson on Wednesday. BAPIO has been lobbying against the IHS for many years now.
“We request you to remove the health surcharge with immediate effect. The NHS has been in a workforce crisis for several years, but now with the COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a worse time for an overstrained service, and we require all the help we can get to meet the challenges”, stated the letter which had been signed by BAPIO President Ramesh Mehta, chair J S Bamrah and Secretary Professor Parag Singhal.
According to BAPIO, the health surcharge adds a significant financial burden on new arrivals and also makes them feel ‘undervalued’ and proves to be a disincentive to their recruitment drives from India. The letter observed that the government will be demonstrating the genuineness of their caring attitude towards their frontline staff by removing IHS.
The letter was sent in the wake of thousands of retired Indian-origin doctors and nurses answering the UK government’s call to return to the NHS, which came under strain after over 9500 tested positive for the pandemic and 465 were dead.
“These are exceptional and extraordinary times and we are here to assist the health service as much as possible. We are advising our recently retired doctors to return to work, of course with the provision that if any of them are unwell or have a chronic illness they must follow the government advice and self isolate”, said Ramesh Mehta.
An estimated 60,000 doctors of Indian-origin are working within the NHS which is often called the ‘backbone’ of UK’s health service.
Around 1000 doctors are likely of Indian origin among the recently retired, while over 10,000 doctors in long-term retirement are being rallied to assist in NHS.
Meanwhile, Johnson issued a special ‘thank you’ to the medics who are returning and around 405,000 volunteers who are supporting the NHS during his weekly briefing outside his 10 Downing Street residence on Wednesday. “To all of you, and all the former NHS staff who are coming back now into the service, I say thank you on behalf of the entire country,” he said.
The efforts of the doctors was also lauded by MPs in the House of Commons before the Parliament closed its session on Wednesday. The Parliament, which was supposed to close its session during the Easter break closed on Wednesday to comply with the strict social distancing rules amid a near-lockdown and stay at home order which had been issued by the government in an effort to try and control the rapid spread of the pandemic.
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