Downing Street has announced that all NHS staff and care workers from overseas will be exempt from paying surcharge fees for using the health service, after pressure from MPs.
In a statement Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said “The Prime Minister has asked the Home Office and the Department for Health and Social Care to remove NHS and care workers from the NHS surcharge as soon as possible.”
Work by officials is underway and full details will be announced “in the coming days”.
The health surcharge for non-EU migrants is currently £400 and was set to rise to £624 in October.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said; “He has been a personal beneficiary of carers from abroad and understands the difficulties faced by our amazing NHS staff.”
“The purpose of the NHS surcharge is to benefit the NHS, help to care for the sick and save lives. NHS and care workers from abroad who are granted visas are doing this already by the fantastic contribution which they make.”
The No 10 U-turn marks a victory for Sir Keir Starmer. The Labour leader raised the issue at PMQs yesterday and challenged Boris Johnson to remove it for care workers.
Starmer shared his delight on Twitter writing, “we cannot clap for our carers and then charge them to use the NHS the next day.”
Boris Johnson is right to have u-turned and backed our proposal to remove the NHS charge for health professionals and care workers.— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) May 21, 2020
This is a victory for common decency and the right thing to do.
We cannot clap our carers one day and then charge them to use our NHS the next.
William Wragg, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee was one of the first Conservatives to support the lifting of the surcharge for health workers.
Very pleased to hear of exemption for migrant NHS & care workers from NHS surcharge. I’m very grateful to @BorisJohnson who has shown true leadership, listened and reflected. Thank you to him and to my colleagues for their strong representations.— William Wragg MP (@William_Wragg) May 21, 2020
For other migrants the NHS surcharge will remain in place. “It is fair to expect people arriving in the UK to work in non-health roles who might use the NHS to make a contribution,” a government source said.
This news comes a day after the Home Office extended the NHS Bereavement Scheme to all support staff and social care workers.
This means that families of migrant NHS cleaners, porters and social care workers who died after contracting Covid-19 can stay in the UK permanently.