VP Communications & Democracy – NHS Charges for International students: Unfairness or Xenophobia?

In July 2013 the Government offered a proposal to charge foreigners for using NHS health service in England. The following proposal was also decided to solve the net cost loss of £12 million invested in treating foreign nationals in the UK.

To follow, the UK Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt announced that: “It is a national health service not an international health service”. (Click here to see the full BBC News article). So at this point I wonder if the UK Government has taken a xenophobic turn in deciding to promote such unfair NHS charges.

From a very impartial and “studenty” perspective, is the government actually thinking of the risks and of the consequences that £200 might have on undergraduate, Master, but, in particular postgraduate research fellow students?  Like the National Union of Students recently reported, for postgraduate students with families, such a steep charge might result into an additional visa fee of £3000 before even coming to the UK.

There are many students who have been residents of the UK and have paid their full taxes including the National Insurance. Many of these International students do intend to remain in England to have a permanent job, but under the current visa status International students would be required to pay for NHS services. Is it a fair treatment? I believe that such unfair charges discourage highly trained undergraduate and postgraduate students who are legally living in the UK.

Although, as NUS has recently estimated: ‘International students contribute a net benefit to the UK far-greater – BIS (Business Skills Innovation) estimated that international students contribute £7.9 billion to the UK economy each year’.

Students coming from different countries should not be put at risk and should be entitled to access health services without being excluded.  Whilst, Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of the Council at the Royal College of General Practitioners, emphasized the importance of GPs accessibility, she also said something which is factually correct. Patients use the NHS if they seek for help but, anyone entitled to access those services should not be taking advantage.

I think that the following situation might send a clear message to International students: “You are not welcome”.  Such an unfair charge to pay demonstrates that certain Government members believe in discrimination, injustice and inequality.

However, I do believe that the first thing that we should do is to look for facts and real solutions. Therefore I will be writing a letter to our local MPs to let them know that we, as a Union of students, do not support these proposals.

SO, here is what you can do:

  1. Sign the NUS petition here against unfair NHS charges to show your support for International students.
  2. Specifically for International Students write to your embassy.

Huddersfield Students’ Union and the NUS have created a letter which you can download and send to your embassy to ask for them to support your rights by pressing the UK government on your behalf.

  • Download the draft letter here.
  • Download a list of embassy contact details here.

Are you in for a positive change?

This is a very important cause and I do wish to see many of you all Home, International and EU students supporting me in this campaign.

Yours,

Coco Toma

VP Communications & Democracy

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