Until now, workers from non-EU countries had to pay a fee for health care. It now no longer applies to healthcare personnel.
LONDON taz | After a political U-turn, all foreigners working in the healthcare sector will no longer have to pay the fee that non-British workers have to pay for their right to health care. "The Prime Minister has given a lot of thought to this and has now requested the relevant changes from the ministries," said a statement from 10 Downing Street.
This is an annual fee of the equivalent of 446 euros for a person, which will rise to 725 euros from October. Additional funds are due for children and family members. Like Britons, EU citizens have not yet had to pay the fee; this will change for EU workers when the Brexit transition phase ends at the end of 2020.
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called for the cancellation of the fee on Wednesday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself had previously spoken to foreign health workers. This saved his life when he was in hospital with Covid-19, said the premier. One of these workers was 35-year-old Jenny McGee – a New Zealander who is herself subject to the NHS state health care fee. But initially Johnson refused to respond to Starmers' request because this fee co-financed the national health system with the equivalent of one billion euros.
Not only unions and spokesmen for all opposition parties thought that was wrong. Even Sir Roger Gale, a former chairman of Johnson's conservative party, described the retention of this fee as "malicious, doctrinal, and small-scale." According to him, it was only the lack of contributions of 56 million euros since the Johnson's 1 billion total represents the contributions of all foreign workers.
The second turn of the day
When the U-turn became known on Thursday evening, it was already the second of the day. The Home Office had previously complied with another request: an injunction is now being extended to allow permanent family members of foreign hospital staff who died on duty in the UK to Covid-19 to remain in the country. The government had previously refused to grant this right to cleaners and other assistants in the sector, or nursing home staff. Now the decision has been expanded.
Hassan Akkad, 33, a Syrian who is currently working as a cleaner in a London hospital, raised concerns about this on Wednesday appealed to Johnson's conscience in a video message on Twitter. He described the fact that in the event of his death his life partner would not be given a right of residence as a "stab in the back." Speaking as a "migrant from the front line", he asked for a rethink. After the Prime Minister's hospital stay, he observed "a more humble and changed Boris," he said. Many British media picked up Akkad's message the following day. He shouldn't be disappointed.
The U-turns are best explained by the increased public status of systemically important workers due to the pandemic. Some hope that this could also change the current draft law for a new British immigration law. On Monday, Parliament still approved the unchanged second reading of this bill. It is now subject to a second review in the British House of Lords, where the conservative faction, unlike the House of Commons, is in the minority.
The law currently envisages a point system for immigration for work purposes with a minimum wage limit of £ 25,600 (around € 28,600) to protect local low-wage earners. However, such a wage limit would also deny the currently most important nursing staff a work permit, since their wages are often less than 28,600 euros.
According to initial criticism, the wage limit was reduced by the equivalent of 33,500 euros in February. But even the former conservative immigration minister Caroline Nokes called this week as a minimum that at least simple and necessary nursing staff – here there is a nationwide shortage of personnel – should be added to a quick procedure for medical personnel like doctors. So far, Interior Minister Priti Patel has been tough on this point.