COVID-19 Update for NHS Overseas Workers - | Hudson McKenzie

COVID-19 Update for NHS Overseas Workers

Over the last two days, The Home Office and Department of Health asserted two significant announcements directed to the loved ones of health and social care workers who have died because of COVID-19 and migrant workers in the NHS.

On Wednesday 20th May 2020, an extension to the NHS Bereavement Scheme was granted. The scheme was primarily established with the endeavour to provide sustained support to the families of health workers who have died in the NHS and independent health and care sector. Now, the scheme additionally covers the families of NHS social workers and support staff who have died because of COVID-19.

The following day on 21st May 2020, NHS staff and care workers from abroad have automatically been exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This applies to migrants outside the European Economic Area who hold a visa extending beyond 6 months and grants them access to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. From March 2020, the IHS was significantly increased from £400.00 to £624.00.

The Bereavement Scheme:

When granting this extension to the scheme, The Home Secretary Priti Patel laid out the genuine and heart felt intentions of the Home Office towards NHS workers and their families:

“When I announced the introduction of the bereavement scheme in April, I said we would continue to work across government to look at ways to offer further support. Today we are extending the scheme to NHS support staff and social care workers.

We want to ensure families have the support they need and so this will be effective immediately and retrospectively.” Priti Patel.

The scheme was introduced by the Home Office in April 2020 to hand an olive branch of help to the loved ones of health workers who have sadly died. As of the recent update, the Home Office also officially recognises the tireless effort and altruistic acts of NHS support staff and social care workers.

The comfort of the scheme for migrant workers is that themselves and their families may be able to apply and arrange for the issuance of indefinite leave to remain (ILR), which will give them permanent UK residency. The Home Office will ensure help for migrant workers in the NHS by identifying individuals who benefit from the extension, arranging automatic visa extensions and issuing guidance for applying to obtain ILR.

Removal of Fees for Migrant NHS Workers:

Ultimately, this has been recognised by Parliament and medical bodies as a favourable result for migrant workers in the NHS. This change will be applicable to all NHS migrant workers, including porters and cleaners and independent health and social care workers. 

“This will ease the pressure on families who may be struggling financially or emotionally as a result.”- Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing

“A victory of common decency.”- Sir Keir Starmer, Labour Leader

Initially, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood by the maintenance of the charge on Wednesday 20th May because of the need to keep methods of funding of the NHS. The removal of the charge is estimated to cost £90 million a year according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

However, this rapidly changed the following day because of political disquiet from both Labour and Tory MPs who disagreed that it should continue to apply to all NHS workers from overseas.

All migrant health and social care workers in the NHS and the independent sector no longer need to pay IHS to receive medical care for themselves and their families from the NHS. This U-turn sheds light on the appreciated and significant contribution by overseas health and social care workers.

Should you have any questions regarding the above information or if you are an employer seeking to sponsor a migrant worker, please get in contact with a legal professional at Hudson McKenzie via email at or by telephone +44(0)20 3318 5794.