Prime minister Theresa May has scrapped a £65 fee that nurses originating from other European Union countries would have had to pay to secure the right to continue living in the UK after Brexit.
In her latest statement on Brexit, Ms May has reiterated that her plan would mean millions of EU citizens from other countries living in the UK would have to apply for “settled status” to remain.
“The government’s decision to waive the settled status fee is welcome news”
So-called “settled status” would give EU citizens the same access to healthcare and education after the UK leaves the EU as they have now.
Applicants must have lived in the UK for five years and, under the prime minister’s original plan, would had been expected to pay a fee of £65 each.
But on Monday Ms May told MPs she had listened to the concerns of EU citizens about the fees, which would now be waived when the scheme was launched on 30 March.
However, the government has already launched a pilot scheme this week for people to apply for leave to remain through a smartphone app.
The prime minister said anyone applying during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed, with further details to be announced shortly.
“A number of trusts have already paid the fee on behalf of their EU staff”
The move to waive the £65 settled-status fee for EU nationals was welcomed by the Royal College of Nursing and other bodies representing the NHS. As previously reported by Nursing Times, some trusts had said they would pay the fee on behalf of their staff.
Professor Dame Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “The government’s decision to waive the settled status fee is welcome news, not only for EU nurses who can do without the expense but also the financially challenged NHS trusts who saw paying the fee as the best way to keep hold of their EU staff.
“With 41,000 nursing vacancies in England the NHS cannot afford to lose any more of its highly-valued EU nurses, who in some Trusts make up as many as one in four of the workforce,” she said.
“Nursing colleagues from Europe should never have had to pay for the privilege of living in the UK and working in our health service,” she said. “We are pleased that the government has arrived at the same conclusion.”
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Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: “The prime minister’s commitment to waiver the planned £65 charge to apply for the settled status fee for EU nationals will be welcomed by NHS trusts.
“A number of trusts have already paid the fee on behalf of their EU staff. We look forward to seeing them reimbursed,” said Ms Cordery.
“Any step that helps trusts recruit and retain EU staff is welcome, but we must continue to do all we can to offer further reassurances and thanks for this vital and much valued part of the health and social care workforce,” she said.
She added: “We need both short term and long term solutions to address the workforce challenges the NHS faces. This is still the number one priority for trusts.”