Hospital Dr News

Overseas NHS staff to be exempt from surcharge to use health service

NHS staff from overseas are to be exempt from paying a surcharge to use the health service after the government does a u-turn.

Reports suggest, under mounting pressure from MPs and health leaders, the Prime Minister has asked the Home Office and Department for Health to exempt NHS and care workers “as soon as possible”.

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

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was “a victory for common decency”.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “This is the least the Government should have done to recognise the effort these workers make – some have even given their lives.

“It’s absolutely crucial, that we recognise and value healthcare workers from overseas, who as this pandemic has clearly highlighted, provide an invaluable service protecting and looking after the health of our nation.

“The scrapping of the surcharge must come into effect immediately to show our gratitude for the effort and dedication our overseas workers give to the NHS and to their patients.”

Officials are now working on the detail and more will be announced “in the coming days”.

But it is understood the plan will include exemptions for all NHS workers, including porters and cleaners, as well as independent health workers and social care workers.

On Wednesday, Mr Johnson stood by the charge, telling MPs he “understood the difficulties faced by our amazing NHS staff”, but said the government “must look at the realities” of funding the NHS.

The PM said the surcharge amounted to £900m of NHS funding, but Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said scrapping the charge for NHS workers would only shave off a tenth of the total revenue raised – with cost approximately £90m.

It caused a backlash, with a number of Tory MPs joining opposition MPs in calling for him to reconsider – including the Tory chairman of the Commons public administration select committee, William Wragg, and his backbench colleague Sir Roger Gale.

Nagpaul added: “This is without a doubt a moral victory and brings huge relief to those facing bills of up to thousands of pounds – as well as the insult of having to pay for the very services they are working so hard to provide.”

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