It has been claimed as a victory for common decency as Boris Johnson was forced into a U-turn last Thursday on the Government’s plan for hiking the NHS surcharge to health and care workers from non-EU countries.
After fierce questioning from Sir Kier Starmer, the Prime Minister announced the fee which had been due to rise from £400 to £624 in October has been scrapped for all NHS and care workers from doctors to porters and cleaners. The sum which was due to be applied to all overseas workers to use the NHS from this autumn would have seen a family-of-four hit with a bill as high as £2,500 a year.
In the Commons last Wednesday, the new Labour leader claimed it would cost a care worker on the National Minimum Wage around 70 hours to pay off the fee. The Royal College of Nursing – which has campaigned for two years for an exemption for health staff – published figures showing that newly-qualified NHS nurses born overseas would have to work for a whole month to pay off the fee when it was due to rise. The increase remains, however, for all other categories of visa applicants.
Luke Pollard Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said:
‘I am pleased with that the Prime Ministers has done the right thing. NHS staff at Derriford and throughout Plymouth’s NHS and care services work their socks off and are continuing to do so under immense pressures. Seeing them step up to take on the Coronavirus has shown what heroes they all are.
Every Thursday we have gathered together, life has been paused so we can show our support for those brave staff who are going to work putting themselves in harm’s way in helping the country to combat this devastating virus. It is morally wrong to charge those same workers a fee to use the service in which they are working.
It is important that when we get through this that we show our appreciation to our key workers not just with clapping but with an increase in pay, pensions and protections. This crisis has brought to light who the key workers in our society really are. It is because of their bravery and sacrifice that we will begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. We can’t go back to a society that claps our carers on a Thursday, but where half of our workers are paid less than the real living wage. Thanks must be more than a moment of appreciation but a recognition that lasts with material changes to improve their circumstances
As of 20 May, 300 NHS and care workers have lost their lives to COVID-19.