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Labour urges government to abolish NHS fees for overseas health and care workers

LABOUR urged the government today to abolish NHS fees for overseas health professionals and care workers.

The health immigration surcharge is £400 a year per person and is set to rise to £624 in October. 

A carer on the so-called national living wage, currently £8.72 an hour for those over 25, will need to work more than 70 hours to pay off the fee once it has increased.

Labour said that it would table an amendment to the Immigration Bill to exempt overseas NHS staff and care professionals from the surcharge after PM Boris Johnson rejected calls for changes.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Every Thursday, we go out and clap for our carers. Many of them are risking their lives for the sake of all of us.
 
“Does the Prime Minister think it’s right that care workers coming from abroad and working on our front line should have to pay a surcharge of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pounds to use the NHS themselves?”

Mr Johnson said: “This is a great national service, it’s a national institution, it needs funding and those contributions actually help us to raise about £900 million and it’s very difficult in the current circumstances to find alternative sources.”

The Labour leader said that he was “disappointed” as the PM knew “how raw” the issue is. 

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Overseas professionals have been at the front line of this crisis and cared for our loved ones as if they were their own. 

“It is an insult and injustice to have this charge in place for them. That is why I would urge Tory MPs to back this amendment.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford criticised the government's treatment of healthcare workers in its legislation.

MR Blackford asked Mr Johnson if he was not embarrassed and called for the “cruel” surcharge to be axed immediately.

The Royal College of Nursing has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel urging her to waive the surcharge “as a matter of urgency.”

General secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “We have already received devastating accounts from members who are struggling to pay the charge and the impact that it is having on their families’ lives.

“The current pandemic has served to reaffirm the importance of our internationally educated staff.

“Without them here, patient care would be at risk.

“This charge undermines the dedicated care overseas health and care staff provide to us all.”

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