Boris Johnson scraps Immigration Health Surcharge in major u-turn

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In an unexpected policy switch the government this afternoon exempted overseas NHS staff and care workers from paying a surcharge to use the health service.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the PM had asked the Home Office and Department for Health to exempt NHS and care workers “as soon as possible”.

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

Many backbench Conservative MPs were also thought to be unhappy about the surcharge, among them Tobias Ellwood, who told BBC Newsnight last night that the government should fully review care and that it was “curious how we clap for NHS staff but we under-appreciate what they’re doing”.

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

More details on the changes will be announced over the next week.

At the 5pm coronavirus daily briefing health secretary Matt Hancock said he’d been asked by Boris Johnson to remove the surcharge as soon as possible. He said the Prime Minister had benefited himself from the work of NHS staff from overseas while he had Covid-19 and indicated that it was a decision made by Johnson alone. The home secretary Priti Patel had also been informed of the change, Hancock stated.

Only yesterday, the Prime Minister rejected calls to scrap the surcharge for migrant care workers, after opposition parties and the Royal College of Nursing said it may be deterring workers from outside the European Economic Area from choosing to work in the UK.

In April it was announced that NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics from overseas whose visas were due to expire before 1 October 2020 would be granted automatic visa extensions free of charge and would be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge – a £400 per year contribution towards access to NHS services, which increases to £624 in October.

Care workers were not covered by the IHS exemption and Johnson said the country could not afford to scrap the charge in the current economic climate.

He told MPs during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday (20 May): “I do accept and understand the difficulties faced by our amazing NHS staff and… I’ve been a personal beneficiary of carers who have come from abroad and, frankly, saved my life.

“On the other hand we must look at the realities – this is a great national service, it’s a national institution, it needs funding and those contributions actually help us to raise about £900m, and it’s very difficult in the current circumstances to find alternative sources.” It later transpired that the £900m figure was the total raised between 2015 and 2019, not the yearly figure.

Johnson was responding to a question from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who said: “Every Thursday we go out and clap for our carers. Many of them are risking their lives for the sake of all of us.

“Does the Prime Minister think it’s right that care workers coming from abroad and working on our frontline should have to pay a surcharge of hundreds – sometimes thousands of pounds – to use the NHS themselves?”

On Monday, foreign secretary Dominic Raab indicated that there were no plans to extend the exemption from the charge to care workers. This prompted the Royal College of Nursing to write to home secretary Priti Patel to ask that the charge is waived as a matter of urgency.

“We have already received devastating accounts from members who are struggling to pay the charge, and the impact that it is having on their families’ lives,” said RCN chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair.

“This charge undermines the dedicated care overseas health and care staff provide to us all.”

Yesterday, meanwhile, the GMB union called for the £600m emergency social care funding to be used for Covid-19 sick pay for care workers. Frontline workers in the NHS have been offered their full and normal pay if they are off sick with the virus, but this has not been extended to care staff.

The union is calling on the government to pay full, backdated sick pay to all social care workers who have followed government advice to self-isolate.

Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: “Social care workers are our key worker heroes yet have been consistently failed by the government with regards to pay, PPE and testing.

“Most social care workers, if they get coronavirus, are faced with an impossible choice – stay home on poverty sick pay which means they can’t pay the rent or put  food on the table; or go into work and put colleagues and residents in danger. It’s a nightmare.

“Paying carers sick pay they can survive on is far and away the best way of controlling infection in our care homes.”

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28 Responses to Boris Johnson scraps Immigration Health Surcharge in major u-turn

  1. Avatar
    Anthony Hawke 20 May 2020 at 6:43 pm #

    All immigrant workers into the NHS and Care Services – It is totally immoral that these very people saving lives on a daily basis normally and even more so under Covid19 should be surcharged any amount. On the contrary, they should be encouraged to stay if they wish by offering nationality. The nation should speak about this as these workers are doing these jobs selflessly. The country needs them and they are being treated very badly.

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      Jacqueline Rowe 21 May 2020 at 5:40 pm #

      Disagree 100% NO not all risking their lives…. Most here by choice, if we go overseas to live or work we buy insurance and so should the people who come here

      • Avatar
        Thomas Smith 23 May 2020 at 1:31 pm #

        They should just go home and let xenophobes take care of themselves.

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        James 25 May 2020 at 2:40 pm #

        They are paying Tax national , insurance like like every other British citizens. What are you on about insurance. It immoral and wrong

      • Avatar
        ola 26 May 2020 at 9:13 am #

        Dont they already pay tax and national insurance. why are they been made to pay twice into the system.

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        jj 6 Jun 2020 at 1:06 am #

        you sound very dumb and ignorant

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        Paul Baker 10 Jun 2020 at 1:14 pm #

        How are not all risking their lives? If they have continued in their work then they have risked their lives on a daily basis while you stay at home nice and safe. Who gives a hoot what they do oversees, that shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing.

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      Razorwine 25 May 2020 at 1:43 am #

      Well said as without them and were already short of all NHS nurses doctors and care workers the whole NHS and care homes would collapse. Like many jobs there are not enough wanting to come in to those professions that’s why it’s important to look after those doing it. People that disagree are usually racist and believe that it’s only taking away British jobs and dont like admitting it .

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      Mr Faisal Butt 10 Jun 2020 at 9:29 pm #

      Government has lied . I am NHS staff member . I have applied for extension of my wife s Visa . I have paid 1800£ IHS today . They only exempted few staff members with date of visa expiry before October 2020. So it’s a lie that IHS surcharge has been scrapped . I am fed up of paying this as it’s a burden on my finances as I have so far paid almost 20000£ for visas . This is unfair as my job involves risk to me and my family s lives . I do not trust this government

  2. Avatar
    Jacqueline Rowe 21 May 2020 at 5:47 pm #

    They are not doing the jobs selflessly the choose to come here to work in their chosen field for a decent wage…. Why else are they here at all…. Rediculous comment…

    It’s time the NHS gave care to those who worked paid in to this system their whole lives, also the soldiers all grounded waiting for joint replacement surgery to return to normal..
    . Which it will not because the waiting list will take us into 2030s as these operations were put off during the last 10ys of austerity!!

    • Avatar
      Nwaizu 22 May 2020 at 1:47 pm #

      Why so bitter??

    • Avatar
      Mike Awesome 22 May 2020 at 10:22 pm #

      You should be glad they need the money otherwise the country is doomed.

    • Avatar
      Vanesa 23 May 2020 at 9:11 am #

      Firstly, the are not enough nurses and doctors in England to fulfil the number of roles required.
      Secondly, and most importantly those who work in ANY sector, already pay their taxes (and have therefore paid into the system) and should not even be charged this ridiculous surcharge, or even such a high one.
      Thirdly, you don’t really have a clue why they are here in the first place.

    • Avatar
      Colleen 23 May 2020 at 12:05 pm #

      Jacqueline, please, we are working through a difficult time to fight Covid-19. I am a New Zealander on an UK Ancestry visa(my grandparents were born here). I have paid Health Surcharge for 5yrs plus I work for the NHS. Boris and his government are trying to help us! If you were in New Zealand at this time, the New Zealand government/Jacinda Ardern would help you for sure! Take it easy!

    • Avatar
      Dr.who 24 May 2020 at 2:16 am #

      Ever tried reading your own pathetic comments? What justifies doctors and other health care workers who are treating patients within the NHS system from being charged to use NHS?

      The least UK can do is not hold them to ransom with a exuberantly over charged health surcharge.

      This only shows as a society how uk citizens like Jacqueline rowe on benefits and those who were at home during coronavirus chewing on government furlough schemes would rather extract every penny out of the system while hard working health workers of NHS are exploited even during COVID 19 like crisis

      • Avatar
        Faisal 10 Jun 2020 at 9:33 pm #

        Agree bro . I am fed up and think made a wrong decision to choose a career in UK . If I could go back in time , would never come to this place . This surcharge is on top of income tax , national insurance and all other taxes .

      • Avatar
        Tessa iheme 4 Aug 2020 at 9:10 pm #

        Amen

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      Razorwine 25 May 2020 at 1:52 am #

      Of course they came to get a better life too but your missing the point. We dont have enough nurses doctors care workers over here and it’s not a job that many here want to do . Like picking fruit and veg on the farms their are not willing to do that either over here. Hence recruiting from other countrys. The wages are minimum wage paid and that’s another reason so many here are not willing to take on those types of jobs. Ask farmers and nursing and care workers professionals about all this and your see the true picture.

  3. Avatar
    Joanne 22 May 2020 at 2:58 pm #

    The scrap should not be only apply to new starters and yet-to-move migrants only. Instead, the government should reimburse and make a refund to current NHS workers who already paid the NHS surcharge in advance (for few years depends on visa) as they are the one who are putting their live at risk to serve the nations from the very beginning of the outbreak, sacrificing their normal routine work life, fighting against this pandemic to save life despite facing the shortage of face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). If the surcharge is an health insurance provided by the government for the foreign workers – this does not make any sense for all current non-EU NHS staffs – they are not only not receiving any benefits for what they paid for and in the opposite they paid for risking their lives to serve and take care of the covid infected citizens.

  4. Avatar
    Amy 22 May 2020 at 4:56 pm #

    They still pay national insurance. This surcharge is just a charge on top. If we went to another country, we only pay travel insurance, we don’t pay an absolutely disgracefully high surcharge on top! Educate yourself you moron!!!

  5. Avatar
    Colleen 23 May 2020 at 11:29 am #

    Totally agree! Reimburse/refund to NHS workers who have paid the NHS surcharge in advance for a few years!

  6. Avatar
    T. Ndu 27 May 2020 at 5:36 am #

    Jacqueline Rowe, you are the epitome of a vile, wicked-racist, inept fool! It’s happenstance that a child is either born in a privileged/poor country but never of their own volition.

    I don’t expect mugs like you to grasp the faintest of such.

    I work for the NHS, my dad who has been here for about 3 decades, has also worked giving care to the weak and needy. My sister is also giving care amidst this Covid-19 whilst you bitter ungrateful privileged arse is gnawing on the govt furlough scheme at home.

    We pay tax, NIC and long stringent hours at work.

    Daily routine could but not exhausted to assuring helpless dementia patient every sec that it’ll be alright even when the chances a low.

    Where is your humanity? A woman was in tears after we took care of her and she confessed she’ll never have an ”petty bias about black people”.

    You’re a xenophobic racist but it’s ok, in the end you might end up needing people you’ve hated for no apparent reason.

    PS; just a thought, all the riches in the west (UK inclusive) was mostly taken forcefully by whites from Africa.
    Posterity will judge the likes of you gut wrenching foolish racists and God bless other good British souls that see beyond colour.

    • Avatar
      Lydia Solomon 22 Jun 2020 at 5:13 pm #

      Well done Ndu,
      Europe is a barren land with almost no natural resources the English especially is the worst of them all stealing ,killing from other countries to continue their survival, bringing blacks to build their country now they think they are better than everyone else, they are specialist in thievery still treat us like slaves hence the NHS surcharge and other unnecessary charges while their own people stay at home on benefits and get fat.No regard for hardworking individuals. Judgement will come to us all one day.

  7. Avatar
    Vieve 4 Jun 2020 at 1:04 am #

    I work in a carehome a my visa is about to expire. I have to apply for my visa extension but won’t let me go through unless I pay for the surcharge. There is no guidance about it at all. Ive been waiting for days and called immigration about it but they can’t give concrete advise, keeps saying go to gov.uk for guidance.

  8. Avatar
    MANOJ VARGHESE 24 Jun 2020 at 11:28 pm #

    A person newly joining NHS is void of surcharge,that is good.
    Those who fought the COVID-19 war from whom the surcharge is forcefully advanced should as well be returned,otherwise how does it make sense for government’s claim as that it an exemption for the heroes.Heroes are the ones who performed it….And so let us first show the sense of gratitude to them too!

  9. Avatar
    Anonymous 2 Jul 2020 at 5:26 pm #

    I work with Nhsprofessionals as a CSW and I pay over £700 every month as tax and NI and also have to pay NHS surcharge. To

  10. Avatar
    Anonymous 8 Aug 2020 at 12:14 am #

    NHS surcharge is Absolutely rip off. Those who implement such charges has no iota of human feelings. They are just forcefully grabbing what then can and through you like a piece of shit.

  11. Avatar
    Peter 14 Aug 2020 at 7:32 pm #

    Why am. I paying so much into a country thst simply doesn’t care if I live are die I work hard every day and pay over the amount for NI And Tax I do not understand the reason for the surcharge it’s wickedness the UK is a cruel evil little country some would say if you don’t like it go back home… bite me I came her for a better chs ce of life and being her isn’t a flowery bed of roses

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