- Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener
Overseas health and care staff will be exempted from the fee levied on migrants to pay for the NHS in a U-turn from Boris Johnson which came after mounting pressure from senior Tories.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister has asked officials at the Home Office and the Department for Health and Social Care to remove health and care workers from the surcharge “as soon as possible”.
Full details will be announced in the coming days, a Number 10 spokesman said.
Mr Johnson “has been thinking about this a great deal” and as a “personal beneficiary of carers from abroad” he understands the difficulties faced by our amazing NHS staff, the spokesman said.
“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.”
The £400 surcharge remains in place for other categories of visa applicants and will increase to £624 in October, as planned.
The change will apply to all NHS workers, ranging from medical health staff to vital porters and cleaners.
- ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston analyses the U-turn
It also includes independent health workers and social care workers.
The U-turn comes a day after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised Mr Johnson's previous policy during Prime Minister's Questions. “Many of them are risking their lives for us,” Sir Keir said. “Does the PM think it is right?”
Mr Johnson admitted that some of that NHS "frankly saved my life" but continued to defend the policy
“We must look at the realities," Mr Johnson said.
"This is a, a great national service, it's a national institution, it needs funding, and those contributions actually help us to raise about £900 million. It's very difficult in the current circumstances to find alternative sources.”
However, Mr Johnson has now seen fit to change his mind, having faced strong opposition from members of his own side, too.
Senior Tories demanded change, with former party chairman Lord Patten calling it “appalling” and “monstrous”.
Former Conservative Party vice-chairman Sir Roger Gale warned Mr Johnson that not to waive the current surcharge “would rightly be perceived as mean-spirited, doctrinaire and petty”.
Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee chairman William Wragg called for an immediate change in policy, adding “now is the time for a generosity of spirit towards those who have done so much good”.
Labour leader Sir Keir said: “Boris Johnson is right to have U-turned and backed our proposal to remove the NHS charge for health professionals and care workers.
“This is a victory for common decency and the right thing to do. We cannot clap our carers one day and then charge them to use our NHS the next.”
Following the announcement on Thursday afternoon, Mr Johnson joined the weekly Clap for our Carers to celebrate NHS workers.
Another of those on their doorstep was nurse Eva Omondi from Kenya, who last month told ITV News it would cost her family £11,000 to pay the surcharge.
Ms Omondi was, needless to say, very relieved by the news that she will not need to stump up the fee from now on.
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