The UK has finally taken measures to help support foreign doctors employed with the NHS.
60,000 Indian-origin NHS medics have been lobbying against what they believe is an unfair Immigration Health Surcharge imposed on them.
The recent move to hike this charge came as a blow to this group of medics who had been hoping for a reprieve.
Addressing this, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel announced an exemption from the surcharge alongside an automatic fee-free one-year visa renewal for foreign doctors.
Indian doctors have often been referred to as the backbone of the UK's National Health Service (NHS), with an estimated 60,000 medics from India working for the state-funded health service. However, over the years, they have been lobbying against what they believe is an unfair Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) imposed on them. The IHS, introduced in April 2015, is imposed on anyone in the UK on a work, study or family visa for longer than six months in order to raise additional funds for the NHS. In his Budget statement in March, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced that the charge would be further hiked from £400 to £624 per year, which came as a blow to this group of medics who had been hoping for a reprieve.
The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), the main representative body for Indian doctors in the UK lobbying against the IHS for many years, argues that the surcharge is discriminatory and unfair because these overseas workers already pay their due share of National Insurance contributions, superannuation and income tax. Besides, the medics themselves are directly contributing to the NHS - the institution for which this surcharge has been set aside. The financial burden of the surcharge is particularly high, given that it is imposed on each dependant family member and adds up to a pretty steep bill for the year. This, in turn, inhibits the ability of BAPIO to assist with the recruitment of much-needed additional Indian doctors to fill vacancies within the NHS on a win-win basis, by giving Indian doctors the chance to benefit from world-class UK training.