Boris Johnson has asked for foreign NHS and care workers to be removed from the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as soon as possible, Downing Street has said.
The IHS is a fee that foreign nationals have to pay to use the NHS. It costs up to £400, with a migrant’s dependants subject to the same charge.
Mr Johnson had said yesterday during PMQs that he understood the opposition to charging foreign NHS workers but said the UK must “face the realities” of the funding that the fee provides the health service.
A Downing Street spokesman said today: “As the PM said in the House of Commons, he has been thinking about this a great deal.
“He has been a personal beneficiary of carers from abroad and understands the difficulties faced by our amazing NHS staff.
“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 U-turn follows a Conservative revolt over the scheme and opposition calls for the government to reconsider in light of the coronavirus crisis.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer reacted to the change of heart on Twitter saying: “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.”
talkRADIO: Listen live for the latest updates on Covid-19