Poulter welcomes PM’s u-turn on surcharge for migrant NHS workers

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Suffolk MP and former health minister Dr Dan Poulter has welcomed the news that NHS and care workers who are not British citizens will be exempt from a controversial health surcharge.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked officials at the Home Office and the Department for Health and Social Care to remove health and care workers from the surcharge “as soon as possible” – just a day after telling MPs it had to be kept.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Poulter – who also works at an NHS hospital in London – said: “I was delighted to hear this. It is only fair. I work with people who have come from all over the world to work for the NHS, not just doctors and nurses but porters and cleaners as well.

“In some hospitals up to 25% of staff have come from abroad – and without them they would not be able to function as they do. There was a great deal of concern about this surcharge and it is only right that the government should make this change which I am sure people around the country will welcome as they understand how important this work is.”

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said he “has been thinking about this a great deal” and as a “personal beneficiary of carers from abroad” he understands the difficulties faced by NHS staff.

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He added: “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.”

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The £400 surcharge remains in place for other categories of visa applicants and will increase to £624 in October, as planned.

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The change will apply to all NHS workers, ranging from medical health staff to vital porters and cleaners. It also includes independent health workers and social care workers.

The U-turn comes after senior Tories demanded change, with former party chairman Lord Patten calling it “appalling” and “monstrous”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Boris Johnson is right to have U-turned and backed our proposal to remove the NHS charge for health professionals and care workers.

“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.”

Local Labour politicians also welcomed the u-turn. Children’s services spokesman at Suffolk County Council Jack Abbott said: “Finally, the right decision has been made after it became impossible for the Prime Minister to continue defending the indefensible.

“I think many people felt deeply uncomfortable that health professionals and care workers, who have come from abroad to work on our frontline, would have to pay a surcharge to use the NHS themselves.”

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