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Overseas pharmacists included in fast-track health worker visa

Dependants of those on a health and care visa will be exempt from the health surcharge
Dependants of those on a health and care visa will be exempt from the health surcharge

Overseas pharmacists will be eligible for a fast-track new health and care visa that will also exempt them from the immigration health surcharge, the government has said.

Pharmacists are among the health professionals who will be able to apply for the health and care visa from August, home secretary Priti Patel and health secretary Matt Hancock said when announcing the scheme earlier this week (July 14).

Health professionals applying for the visa can “expect a decision on whether they can work in the UK within just three weeks” and will pay lower visa application fee than other professionals categorised as skilled workers.

Immigration health surcharge

The immigration health surcharge that otherwise forms part of the application process will be waived as part of the health and care visa, the government said. Those working in health and social care but who are not eligible for the visa can still claim the immigration health surcharge amount back “if they have paid this on or after March 31”, the government said.

Dependants of those applying for the health and care visa will also be exempt from the immigration health surcharge.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr Hancock said that “the reimbursement of the immigration health surcharge recognises the enormous contribution of those who have come to the UK to work in health and social care”, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m incredibly proud of our health and care workforce and look forward to welcoming new professionals from across the globe to continue the fantastic work to ensure our health system remains the best in the world,” he added.

Legislation will be required to implement the health and care visa and the health surcharge exemption, with the government stating that the legislative changes “needed to open this new route will be laid in parliament today [July 14]”.

Remove health surcharge

Mr Hancock had already announced plans to exempt health and social care staff from the immigration health surcharge – which is expected to increase from £400 a year to £624 from October 2020 – “as soon as possible” at a press briefing on May 21.

The government said in its statement this week that it had begun “refunding immigration health surcharge payments for any healthcare professionals on tier 2 visas who have paid since March 31and this process will continue”.

However, while welcoming the announcement that overseas pharmacists are on the list of professions eligible for the health and care visa, Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Sandra Gidley said further government action is still needed.

“Nearly two months after we were told health and care workers would be exempt, overseas pharmacists are still being asked to pay when they apply for a visa and it’s no clearer how they can ask for a refund. The government needs to fix this now, “she said.

What do you make of this announcement?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

The way I understand it, people who come over to work do so for a short period of time and take their wages back where they get more bang for their buck.

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

It is not necessary at all. There are more than enough pharmacists in sweat-shop working conditions and associated contractual terms. Unless you want to drive down costs.

I have spoken recently with some on the Covid-19 front line, and it has definitely made a psychological and physical impact - without catching the virus.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Frankly it must be terrifying being a nurse or doctor in a Covid ward, going in every day thinking 'Is today the day I catch something that is going to kill me?' I have the utmost respect for these people.

locums locumen, Community pharmacist

They have to go to school for a whole year, and another year of pre-registration training. It would not be worth it for the wages they are going to be paid.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

I retired about one year ago, community pharmacist friends keep telling  me that they are exhausted, burned out and poorly paid. I think the hay days of pharmacy have long gone, but I hope the government re-examine the value pharmacists and pharmacy staff have to play in public health , minor illness, pharmacy advice. I think the profession is badly undervalued and this pandemic highlights the critical role pharmacists made to the country.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

You are absolutely right in the points you make but I fear your hope for pharmacy is a vain one. Once this has quietened down, it'll be back to normal. Things change rapidly - just remember a few years ago, the NHS was being slagged off to the hills with criticism of standards of nursing and calls for the return of The Matron. Now they are all heroes. Don't expect it to last though. We are very fickle people and seem to follow the whims of the media like sheep.

Locum Pharmacist, Locum pharmacist

Gidley and Hancock should be strung up.The "profession" has been bludgeoned to death.
What more can I say.

David Kent, Community pharmacist

This makes no sense. An influx of overseas pharmacists will only reduce already appalingly low remuneration rates.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Along with most of RPS and GPhC who some would suggest double up as off payroll employees of Boots, Lloyds etc..... 

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

But of course, you and I would never DREAM of suggesting such an outlandish thing would we?


R T, Manager

Hmmm. I don't think we need so many pharmacists from overseas. I know many pharmacists voted brexit hoping it would manage the influx of pharmacists and keep wages buoyant. I feel like my vote was pointless.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Brexit is not for regular folk and never was. Brexit was sold purely oon immigration to get the masses(Sun/DM readers) to vote for it. The beneficiaries are Boris and his big industry mates.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I didn't vote purely on immigration. I voted so that we could get our own trade deals without having to go crawling to Brussels first. Credit us with some intelligence please. There is a LOT more to the world than immigration.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

There is very little benefit from accessing the few markets we couldn't beforehand. Villifing Brussels was a disingenuous campaign tool. Most studies published to date conclude that Brexit will reduce economic growth.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

India, Australia, China (but let's gloss over that one), New Zealand, any other established or emerging economy you care to mention was closed off to us as a sovereign nation unless we went along with whatever deal was negotiated by some unelected bureaucrat in Brussels who gave the deal to whosoever gave him the biggest bung. We weren't even allowed to freely trade with the Commonwealth nations who have the Queen as Head of State on our own terms. The whole WORLD is now open to us to deal with as we see fit. It's disingenuous to not acknowledge this.

Incidentally, a reduction in economic growth is not a recession.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

How's that working out so far ? Maybe bettert to assess once the recession is over....

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

The recession caused by Covid you mean? Yes, probably. That disease has got a nasty habit of sticking a spanner in the works, like what it's done to my plan for Phexit (as in getting out of pharmacy)

Leon The Apothecary, Student

The recession was already predicted due to Brexit back in September. COVID was just extra at that point.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

A prediction is just that - guesswork. Who predicted Covid? No-one and yet the recession caused by it is FAR worse than anything envisaged after Brexit (which, incidentally, had failed to materialise just as the recession predicted after the Brexit vote failed to materialise). No-one ever said there would be an immediate benefit to the economy from leaving the EU but I'm able to take the longer term view and see the benefits to this country from free trade with the entire world as opposed to a corrupt and self-serving bloc run by Greater Germany who still haven't forgiven us for winning.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Yes because there is a dire shortage of pharmacists and pharmacy schools. Hopefully this will also drive down salaries and wages because locums/employees are aseeing their earnings spiral out of control.*

*Refer to Rudkin of the GPhC who had to take a break from dealing with the pandemic to address the footballer style wage of locums and employee pharmacists.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Anyone would have to be bloody mad to come over to work here in the conditions we have to endure.

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