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Sun, 31 May 2020

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Coronavirus: No10 says NHS migrant charge pays to ‘save lives’ after ex-Tory chair brands it ‘immoral’

Coronavirus: No10 says NHS migrant charge pays to ‘save lives’ after ex-Tory chair brands it ‘immoral’

Number 10 defended the levy, which is currently paid by non-EEA workers even in the NHS and social care sectors.

3 min read

Number 10 has doubled down in its defence of the NHS migrant surcharge amid mounting Conservative opposition to the “immoral” fee during the coronavirus pandemic.

Downing Street said the policy - which sees workers coming to the UK from outside the European Economic Area asked to pay £400 towards the NHS, even if they are employed in the service - would “help save lives”.

And they confirmed that a planned hike in the surcharge to £624 is still going ahead in October, saying the Government had given a “very clear manifesto commitment” to increasing it.

But the defence of the policy comes amid mounting criticism from some Tories, with the party’s former chairman Lord Patten on Thursday branding the Government's position “appalling” and “immoral”.

Speaking on the Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio 5Live, he said it was “monstrous that people who come from overseas to help and risk their lives aren't treated properly".

Senior Tory MP William Wragg, Chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee, also made clear he would be backing a push from Labour to exempt migrant NHS and care workers from the charge.

“Now is the time for a generosity of spirit towards those who have done so much good,” he said.

His colleague and veteran backbencher Sir Roger Gale said: “I am backing cross party calls for the Government to waive health charges levied upon immigrant workers in the NHS and Social Care services.”

"I strongly believe that the £400 charge should be waived for those immigrants currently working in the health and care services and saving lives." Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale

Sir Roger said the amount raised annually by charging health and care workers themselves represented just “a fraction of the total” £900 million figure given by Boris Johnson.

Number 10 on Thursday confirmed that the total amount cited by Mr Johnson covered a four-year period and did not provide further details on how much had been raised specifically by charging NHS and care workers. 

Sir Roger said: “I strongly believe that the £400 charge should be waived for those immigrants currently working in the health and care services and saving lives.

“To do otherwise would rightly be perceived as mean-spirited, doctrinaire and petty – and the Prime Minister has none of those failings.”

The new MP for Stoke on Trent North, Jonathan Gulis, elected in 2019, meanwhile said: “I support the NHS fee exemption for migrant NHS and care workers. 

“Now is the time for a generosity of spirit towards those who have done so much good.”

'DIRECTLY BACK INTO THE NHS'

But the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said of the surcharge: ”It goes directly back into the NHS to help save lives. 

“Income from the surcharge is distributed between the four devolved health administrations in England, Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland for the purpose of health spending. 

“Money that we put into our health service has a direct impact on improving people’s lives and saving people’s lives.”

Asked whether the Government was still planning to push ahead with the October hike, the Number 10 spokesperson said there had been a “very clear manifesto commitment made by the Government” to do so.

“And it’s on the basis of that manifesto that the Prime Minister won a very significant majority,” they added.

Pointing out that some NHS trusts had chosen to cover the cost of the surcharge for their own staff, the spokesperson added: ”If NHS Trusts choose to do that that is of course a matter for them. But the money raised does go to the NHS.”

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