Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
NHS trusts 'pay out £15 million in fees for overseas staff'
24 August 2020, 10:10
NHS trusts have paid the government more than £15 million to hire specialist foreign workers over the last three years, according to new figures obtained by the Labour Party.
Since 2017, a list of 52 trusts paid the government £15,549,944 through the immigration skills charge, the data released under Freedom of Information laws to the Labour Party suggested.
Employers wishing to recruit foreign staff may have to pay the immigration skills charge at a cost of about £1,000 for the first 12 months for a medium or large sponsor.
However, shadow immigration minister Holly Lynch accused the Conservatives of "punishing hospital budgets for their own failure to train enough skilled staff".
The Labour Party asked 224 NHS hospital trusts how much they are paying to hire workers from overseas via the charge.
Of those, 52 trusts responded to the request, with Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust paying the most - £2,007,000 since 2017 - among those that responded, the party said.
Ms Lynch described the immigration skills charge as a "stealth tax on our NHS".
"Local NHS trusts require specialists from overseas, yet the Tories are punishing hospital budgets for their own failure to train enough skilled staff," she said.
"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."
A government spokesman said: "Right across the immigration system we are supporting frontline healthcare staff through initiatives such as visa extensions and the creation of the bereavement scheme.
"We are incredibly grateful for all the hard work that health workers and care workers continue to do in the fight against coronavirus.
"We've already taken steps to support the NHS during the pandemic by removing the skills charge for employers when automatically renewing visas.
"Our new points-based immigration system, for introduction from January 2021, will go even further to make sure the NHS and wider health and care sector can continue to access the best and brightest talent from across the world."