Conservative MPs have begun backing calls for the government to exempt healthcare staff from an NHS surcharge for foreign workers.
The surcharge, which applies to staff who come to the UK from outside the European Economic Area, including NHS workers, is currently £400 a year, and is set to rise to £624 from October. Last month, the government announced that NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics from overseas would not have to pay the charge for a year. But other healthcare workers, including those in care homes, still have to pay.
During the pandemic, opposition parties have renewed their calls for all health and social care workers to be exempted from the charge. William Wragg, chair of the public administration and constitutional affairs committee, was the first Tory MP to back those calls. “Now is the time for a generosity of spirit towards those who have done so much good,” he said, urging colleagues to join him.
His words were echoed by Jonathan Gullis, a Conservative MP from the 2019 intake.
I support the NHS fee exemption for migrant NHS and care workers.
Now is the time for a generosity of spirit towards those who have done so much good.
— Jonathan Gullis MP (@JEGullis) May 21, 2020
Chris Patten, the former Conservative party chairman, told Radio 5 Live that making migrant care workers pay the surcharge was “immoral”.
“It’s appalling, it’s immoral. We depend in our care homes on people who come from other countries. I think this is monstrous that people who come from overseas to help and risk their lives in really difficult circumstances aren’t treated properly.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday ruled out changes to the charge, saying that it raised £900m for public financies. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates contributions from overseas NHS staff amount to around £90m.