The Government has announced that it will scrap the Immigration Health Surcharge for health and care staff from outside the EU, only 24 hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it should be kept in place, as the NHS 'needed the funding'.
Levying the charge, which is due to rise to £624 in October, has been heavily criticised by both health professional bodies and the Opposition. At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer contrastedthe ritual of clapping for carers with expecting some of these workers to pay a surcharge of ‘hundreds sometimes thousands of pounds to use the NHS themselves’.
Mr Johnson said that he had sympathy with the workers, but the NHS ‘needs funding and those contributions actually help us to raise about £900m’. Economic think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies later costed the actual figure as £90m.
However after a backlash, which included criticism from his own MPs, a spokesman for the PM announced that after 'thinking about it a great deal', Mr Johnson ‘has asked the Home Office and the Department for Social Care to remove NHS and care workers from the surcharge as soon as possible.’ Sir Keir described the decision as ‘a victory for common decency’.
The news was cautiously welcomed by the RCN. ‘Scrapping the unfair Immigration Health Surcharge is something our members have been demanding for two years,’ said General Secretary Dame Donna Kinnair. ‘I welcome the news on their behalf, but it is a shame it took this pandemic for the Government to see sense.‘Of course, nursing staff will only breathe a sigh of relief when they hear the details of how the Immigration Health Surcharge will be lifted.’