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Government U-turns to ditch health surcharge for immigrant NHS staff

The Government has axed its immigration surcharge for NHS staff, in a U-turn from its stance earlier this week.

This means that NHS and care workers from overseas will be exempt from paying a surcharge to use the health service, and comes after mounting pressure from MPs and medical organisations.

The Prime Minister is understood to have asked the Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care to enact the exemption as soon as possible.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer read a letter on the topic by the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

After each spending prolonged periods lobbying the Home Office for this change, DAUK and the BMA have welcomed the decision.

The BMA described the news as a ‘moral victory’.

Council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This announcement is long overdue but is testament to the BMA’s persistent lobbying for this surcharge, unfair to so many NHS workers from overseas, to be abolished. 

‘This is without a doubt a moral victory and brings huge relief to those facing bills of up to thousands of pounds – as well as the insult of having to pay for the very services they are working so hard to provide.’

But DAUK president Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden said that it shouldn’t have taken a pandemic for the Prime Minister to ‘recognise the service of overseas doctors and nurses coming to work in the NHS’.

She added: ‘At a time when doctors and nurses from overseas are putting their lives on the line, exempting them from the surcharge is only right in recognition of their service to our country.

‘We now must move forward in acknowledging the enormous contribution healthcare workers to our health service. DAUK will continue to call for Indefinite Leave to Remain for all frontline healthcare workers who have served in the NHS during the pandemic.’

The BMA, DAUK, the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) and Association of Pakistani Physicians of Northern Europe (APPNE) all wrote to the Government to ask them to reverse their position in the last week.