A Luton-based nurse has called for action to axe fees paid by overseas nursing staff to allow them to use NHS services.
Evaline Omondi said the surcharges are unfair given the contribution overseas staff already make in taxes and their work keeping the NHS afloat.
She led a debate at RCN Congress in Belfast on Saturday calling for the Government to waive the fees for nursing staff and their dependents.
In April 2015, changes were made to the way the NHS charges overseas visitors for NHS hospital care in the UK.
Non-EEA nationals who apply for a visa to enter or remain in the UK for more than six months now have to pay the health charge. The Government recently announced plans to double it from £200 to £400 a year per person.
The Government’s aim in introducing the surcharge was to ensure those coming to the UK who are not “ordinarily resident” contribute towards the cost of their healthcare.
But some have questioned whether it is right to charge overseas nurses working on visas a surcharge given that they already pay National Insurance and income tax, as well as helping provide vital public services.
Evaline, an RCN Eastern board member and steward, said: “We already pay all the taxes which fund the health services. It feels like we are being taxed twice.
“I also pay this fee for my husband and my children. As well as visa fees it amounts to a very large amount each year.”
She added: “The Government says that NHS services are so excellent so those coming into this country should pay something in return to use them.
“But we are already contributing to the economy of the country by paying all the taxes.”
Evaline also pointed to the pressures all nursing staff currently face, dealing with staff shortages and rising demand as well as pay restraint which has lasted a decade.
“The NHS depends on these nurses who are on work permits to keep health services afloat,” Evaline said.
“They depend on us and we are the ones working extra hours under intense pressure to run services.
“We are constantly struggling to make enough money, borrowing from friends, doing anything we can to cope.”