Friday, 05 June, 2020

Johnson performs U-turn on fee for foreign health and care workers

The PM changed his mind following party pressure The PM changed his mind following party pressure
Gustavo Carr | 23 May, 2020, 17:52

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday did a U-turn as he ordered his Cabinet ministers to work out an exemption of a surcharge on foreign medics, including Indians, working in the UK's state-funded National Health Service (NHS).

The change will apply to all NHS workers, ranging from medical health staff to vital porters and cleaners.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister confirmed the Home Office and Department for Health and Social Care have been asked to exempt NHS and care workers "as soon as possible".

"We must all recognise the huge contribution that NHS and care workers make - including many from across the world who have been nothing short of heroic during this public health emergency".

Full details will be announced in the coming days, a Number 10 spokesman said.

The Prime Minister told Sir Keir: "I do accept and understand the difficulties faced by our fantastic NHS staff and, like him, I've been a personal beneficiary of carers who have come from overseas and, frankly, saved my life".

On Wednesday, Starmer had challenged the United Kingdom prime minister in the House of Commons during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions on whether he thought it was "fair" to add the surcharge on healthcare workers.

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"Now we need the Tory government to scrap the NHS surcharge altogether, build a fairer immigration system, and show a meaningful commitment to NHS and care workers - including paying them all at least the Real Living Wage".

The IHS, introduced in April 2015, is imposed on anyone in the United Kingdom on a work, study or family visa for longer than six months and is set for a further hike from GBP 400 to GBP 624 per year.

Mr Johnson has previously spoken of his admiration for health care workers since being discharged from hospital, and in April singled out two nurses - Jenny McGee from New Zealand and Luís Pitarma from Portugal - who treated him during a critical 48 hours in intensive care.

Former Conservative Party vice-chairman Sir Roger Gale had warned Mr Johnson that not to waive the current surcharge "would rightly be perceived as mean-spirited, doctrinaire and petty". The Labour leader raised the issue at PMQs yesterday and challenged Boris Johnson to remove it for care workers. "Does the PM think it is right?"

"We can not clap for carers one day and then charge them to use our NHS the next", he said.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "This is long overdue".

It also came a day after another U-turn when the Government extended a scheme offering indefinite leave to remain to the families of all NHS staff who die as a result of contracting coronavirus.