NHS surcharge for migrant health and care workers scrapped after government U-turn

21 May 2020, 16:38

Boris Johnson yesterday said he thought the levy was "Fair"
Boris Johnson yesterday said the levy helped bring in money for the NHS . Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The NHS surcharge will be lifted for migrants working for the NHS "as soon as possible", it has been announced.

A statement said: "The PM 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 now underway on how to implement the change and full details will be announced in the coming days".

In the House of Commons yesterday, Boris Johnson defended the surcharge, which is due to increase from £400 to £624 per person in October.

Mr Johnson acknowledged that it had been migrant nurses who helped save his life when he was hospitalised with coronavirus, but told MPs the scheme helps contribute £900 million to the NHS each year.

He also warned MPs of the "realities" of the situation, saying it was “very difficult in the current circumstances to find alternative sources” of money for the NHS.

Just minutes after the latest measure was announced, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the PM was right to remove the levy for NHS workers.

He said: "Boris Johnson is right to have u-turned and backed our proposal to remove the NHS charge for health professionals and care workers.

"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."

The U-turn comes after senior Tories demanded change, with former party chairman Lord Patten calling it "appalling" and "monstrous".

Former Conservative Party vice-chairman Sir Roger Gale warned Mr Johnson that not to waive the current surcharge "would rightly be perceived as mean-spirited, doctrinaire and petty".

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee chairman William Wragg called for an immediate change in policy, adding "now is the time for a generosity of spirit towards those who have done so much good".

The government also announced yesterday they were making a U-turn on the NHS bereavement scheme for migrant workers, allowing the families of anyone who died working on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis to be given leave to remain.

Previously, the measure only applied to doctors and nurses, meaning hundreds of care staff, cleaners and porters could have faced their families being deported if they passed away from Covid-19.

The two government U-turns also come after a passionate plea by NHS cleaner Hassan Akad, who posted a video on Wednesday addressing the Prime Minister.

Mr Akkad - a Syrian refugee - filmed himself wearing his scrubs expressing feelings of shock and betrayal at being excluded from the policy.

Within the day, the Home Office confirmed the scheme had been extended to include cleaners, porters, social care and care home staff and will be effective immediately and retrospectively.