Boris Johnson has told the health and home departments to remove the NHS immigrant surcharge for NHS and care workers, after defending the policy just 24 hours ago in parliament.
The charge, which is £400 per year for adult migrants from non-European Economic Area countries, has been criticised for applying to frontline workers who have been praised for their work during the coronavirus crisis.
The Prime Minister said yesterday at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) that the surcharge would not be dropped as it would leave a £900m hole in the NHS budget.
However, a Number 10 spokesman has said today that work is now underway to scrap the yearly fee for migrant NHS and care workers.
“As the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons, he has been thinking about this a great deal,” the spokesman 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.”
There was a growing rebellion today from Tory backbenchers about the surcharge remaining for frontline workers, with a number speaking out on social media.
The government’s stance was also criticised Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at yesterday’s PMQs.
Starmer tweeted that Johnson was “right to have u-turned”.
“This is a victory for common decency and the right thing to do,” he said.
“We cannot clap our carers one day and then charge them to use our NHS the next.”