A plan to charge migrants twice as much to access the NHS has been branded an "outrageous and cynical" attempt by government to shift the blame for its handling of the health service.
The immigration health surcharge is paid by people from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who are seeking to live in the UK for six months or more to work, study or join family.
It will rise from £200 to £400 per year, with the discounted rate for students and those on the Youth Mobility Scheme increasing from £150 to £300, the Department of Health (DoH) said.
But the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has criticised the plan, describing it as "a shameful attempt to stir up division and hatred".
The DoH estimates the NHS spends £470 on average per person per year on treating surcharge payers.
Their projections suggest that the increased charges may provide around an extra £220 million every year, with this money going back to NHS services.
Health Minister James O'Shaughnessy said: "Our NHS is always there when you need it, paid for by British taxpayers.
"We welcome long-term migrants using the NHS, but it is only right that they make a fair contribution to its long-term sustainability."
Satbir Singh, chief executive of JCWI, said: "This is an outrageous and cynical attempt by the Government to shift the blame for its own failure to deal with the crisis in the NHS.
"The health minister James O'Shaughnessy speaks about an NHS 'paid for by British taxpayers', ignoring the enormous net contribution of migrant taxpayers and of the migrant workforce that has helped keep the NHS running every day for seventy years.
"Of course, it's right that we all contribute but this is a shameful attempt to stir up division and hatred by implying that migrants don't already do so."
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved.