Overseas NHS and care home staff to be exempt from health surcharge after U-turn by Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has asked the Home Office to alter the policy (PA)
Overseas workers in the NHS and care homes will now be exempted from the health surcharge after Boris Johnson stepped in to alter the policy.
The U-turn comes after a host of his own MPs pressed the Prime Minister to make the change, along with the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in the Commons.
At PMQs Mr Johnson said he had “thought a great deal about this”, after criticism of the charge - which is also due to increase from £400 to £624 in October.
He said he had been a “personal beneficiary of people who’ve come from abroad and frankly saved my life”, but said the levy raises about £900million, adding: “I think that is the right way forward.”
And earlier on Thursday Downing Street doubled down on the commitment to the policy, despite a former Tory party chairman calling it “immoral”.
The PM’s official spokesperson said the Government had given a “very clear manifesto commitment” to increasing it.
They added that the surcharge “goes directly back into the NHS to help save lives”.
But just hours later a spokesperson for Number 10 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.
“As the PM said in the House of Commons, he has been thinking about this a great deal.
“He 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.”
Downing Street said the change will apply to all NHS workers, including porters and cleaners, as well as those in social care.
But they confirmed the NHS surcharge remains in place for other categories of visa applicants and will increase in October, as planned,
It is the second U-turn in as many days after Priti Patel announced families of NHS care workers and cleaners who die on the coronavirus frontline will be allowed to stay in the UK on Wednesday.
The major climbdown from the Home Office came amid anger after it emerged those relatives were exempt from a bereavement scheme, with the offer of indefinite leave to remain only applying to certain occupations including nurses, radiographers and biochemists.