A recent freedom of information request has found that NHS trusts have had to pay extortionate fees through the immigration skills charge in order to fill vital specialist roles that have been left vacant through domestic skills shortages. Since 2017, these fees have totalled over £15 million for the trusts that have so far responded.
The immigration skills charge is levied on employers who wish to employ from outside of the European Economic Authority or of Switzerland who requires a visa to work in the UK for 6 months or more and does not meet narrow research and student exemption criteria. Costs for large organisations typically run at over £1,476 per worker.
At present, 52 out of the 224 NHS hospital trusts in England have responded to the freedom of information request; asking how much they are paying to government in the immigration skills charge, when forced to recruit overseas specialists. In total, the 52 trusts have cumulatively paid £15,549,944 through the charge since 2017.
Three NHS trusts have paid over £1 million in these fees since 2017.
Hampshire based NHS trusts have been particularly hard hit with Portsmouth Hospitals NHS trust topping the list. The trust has paid £2,007,000 in government charges since 2017 to fill vital specialist rolls. The University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust also made the top three, being charged £1,224,509 over the period.
London NHS trusts have also been hard hit, with Barts Health NHS Trust paying £1,287,000 since 2017 and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust accumulating £1,130,000 in fees over the period.
Labour’s Shadow Minister for Immigration, Holly Lynch MP, said:
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The immigration skills charge is a stealth tax on our NHS, which is nothing short of an outrage.
Local NHS trusts require specialists from overseas, yet the Tories are punishing hospital budgets for their own failure to train enough skilled staff.
The irrationality of the immigration skills charge for NHS trusts has been underlined by the Coronavirus pandemic. The Conservative Government should be doing all they can to support the NHS. Instead, they are presenting trusts with an unenviable choice: either leave life-saving specialist roles unfilled or fork out expensive fees for overseas staff.