News | Published May 22 2020

NHS surcharge for overseas health and care staff to be axed

The NHS surcharge which non-EU migrants from overseas are required to pay use the health service will no longer apply to health workers and care sector staff.

The move to axe the levy for health and social care sector workers represents a real u-turn for prime minister Boris Johnson, who rejected calls from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to abolish the charge during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions [PMQs] in Parliament.

Johnson said that he “understood the difficulties” it imposed on NHS personnel from overseas, but stressed that the government had to consider “the realities” of funding the health service.

A Downing Street statement also defended the use of the surcharge, saying that the funds generated go directly back into the NHS and toward saving lives.

The health immigration surcharge on non-EU migrants stands at £400 per year and will rise to £624 in October.

The PM’s response during PMQs sparked a major backlash among MPs, including from within his own party, and the pressure has now told.

The prime minister’s spokesman said that Johnson had asked NHS and care workers to be made exempt "as soon as possible".

The spokesman said: "[The PM] has been thinking about this a great deal. 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."

More details are to be confirmed in the near future, but all NHS workers, including porters and cleaners, alongside independent health workers and social care personnel, are believed to be exempt under the changes.

Sir Keir has already hailed the decision as "the right thing to do", tweeting: "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."

Dame Donna Kinnair, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said in response to the move: "At last the government has agreed with us. This will ease the pressure on families who may be struggling financially or emotionally as a result."

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
May 22 2020

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