Our NHS is under more pressure than it has ever been. As I write, brave nurses, doctors, cleaners, porters, health care assistants are putting in superhuman effort to keep people alive, to comfort them and their families when they can’t and to treat more critically ill people than they have ever had to at the same time before.
And all the time taking the risk that they could be next to be lying there struggling to breathe.
It’s exhausting. And it comes after many of them bust a gut during the first wave. Then they barely stopped to rest before trying to catch up with the routine procedures and tests that they had not been able to do.
After ten months of relentless pressure, many are at breaking point. They are seeing suffering on a scale that they had not imagined.
Every day on my social media, I hear about at least one person who I actually know in real life being admitted to hospital.
As I think of them and hope that they will soon be restored to good health, I think about the stressed health professionals and support staff treating them.
Many of those staff are not UK nationals. Those who aren’t EU citizens with the protections of settled status have the hellscape of our horrendous immigration system to navigate. Every so often, their visas will have to be renewed. That is a hellishly stressful and expensive process.
If you came in to the country on a spouse visa, that will set you back £1500. And you’ll have to pay it again to renew it after two and a half years. You also have to pay £624 PER YEAR in NHS surcharge.
So, that’s nearly 5 grand for the first five years. Then you can apply for indefinite leave to remain. That will set you back another £2400.
We’re at pretty much £7,500. On a nurse’s salary? Are you having a laugh? And if you have kids who are not UK nationals, you have to pay for them too.
Right from the start of the pandemic, Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine has been trying to get the Government to give indefinite leave to remain to healthcare staff and their spouses and children.
This week, her Bill is debated reaches its next parliamentary stage. It says:
BE IT ENACTED by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—
Indefinite leave to remain
- (1) An eligible person has indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom.
- (2) The Secretary must, on request from an eligible person, issue physical documentary proof of that indefinite leave to remain as soon as reasonably practicable.
(3) No fee may be charged for issuing a proof under subsection (2)./ol>
Simple. The right to stay for free for those who have been braving the pandemic, taking that risk, and their families.
Here she is introducing the Bill back in September:
The party has released a campaign video and we can expect more in the next few days:
Please help and share.
And if you have your own story to tell about how you have been helped by NHS staff or if you are a nurse or doctor yourself and support this Bill, let us know. We want to tell your story.
This should be an easy ask for the Government. After all, neither of the nurses Boris Johnson credits with saving his life were UK nationals. He should understand more than most why this Bill is necessary.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings