Health and social care staff will be made exempt “as soon as possible”.
In an unexpected u-turn the government has announced that migrant NHS staff and care workers are to be exempt from the controversial immigration health surcharge (ISH).
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”.
Earlier this week both the Prime Minister and Home Secretary stated the charge was necessary and would remain in force for all.
The controversial health immigration surcharge is a fee non-EU migrants are forced to pay in order to access healthcare in the UK. It costs a staggering £400 per person per year and it had been set to rise to £624 in October.
Healthcare unions have spent several years calling for its abolition.
A shame it took a pandemic.
Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Scrapping the unfair Immigration Health Surcharge is something our members have been demanding for two years. 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.
“Overstretched health and care services will struggle to pay this from their existing budgets and government must consider that, and any action must not be limited to the NHS.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Council Chair at the British Medical Association, added: “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.