United Kingdom urged to scrap healthcare fee for migrant NHS workers

Hassan Akkad in his hospital scrubs and PPE

"Does the Prime Minister think it's right that care workers coming from overseas and working on our front line should have to pay a surcharge of hundreds - sometimes thousands of pounds - to use the NHS themselves?", Sir Keir asked at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

Politicians and healthcare workers have called on the Government to scrap the NHS surcharge for migrant care workers coming from outside the European Economic Area.

A spokesman for Johnson's Downing Street office said all NHS and care staff, including porters and cleaners, will now be exempt.

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".

The work will be carried out by 25,000 volunteers, of which 24,000 have already been hired, added the head of government, who said that the United Kingdom is now conducting more tests on the Covid-19 than any other country in Europe.

"I have thought a great deal about this and I do accept and understand the difficulties faced by our wonderful NHS staff".

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 unbelievable NHS staff, the spokesman said.

"I know exactly their importance".

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"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 £900 million, and it's very hard in the current circumstances to find alternative sources".

He captioned the clip "I hope you can help me get this message delivered to Mr PM Boris Johnson" and it has been viewed 3.7 million times and been retweeted almost 50,000 times.

William Wragg, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee was one of the first Conservatives to support the lifting of the surcharge for health workers.

The annual fee is now 400 pounds and will rise to 624 pounds in October - a high sum for people earning the minimum wage. With the charge applicable on each member of a family, the overall cost is seen as prohibitive, over and above the tax contributions.

He quoted a letter from the Doctors' Association, an industry body, saying the tax was "a gross insult to all".

"At a time when we are mourning colleagues your steadfast refusal to reconsider the deeply unfair immigration health surcharge is a gross insult to all who are serving this country at its time of greatest need", noted the letter.

An NHS hospital cleaner has promised to continue fighting for the rights of migrant workers in NHS support roles after a short film he made challenging the Government went viral.

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