Foreign NHS workers today accused Boris Johnson of ‘stabbing them in the back’ after declaring it is ‘right’ to charge them £624-a-year for healthcare and it emerged the lowest paid have been barred from the UK bereavement scheme meaning their families could be deported if they die from coronavirus.
Mr Johnson has defended the government’s Immigration Health Surcharge during PMQs today while also revealing 321 NHS and social care workers, many who were born outside Britain, have perished after contracting Covid-19.
The PM, who has repeatedly thanked foreign nurses at St Thomas’ hospital for saving his life, has been accused of ‘betrayal’ after it was revealed that migrant workers, including care workers who have risked their lives battling coronavirus, will have to pay £624-a-year from October to access the NHS – an increase from the current £400 charge.
And today Syrian refugee Hassan Akkad said he felt ‘stabbed in the back’ as it emerged that low-paid hospital and care home staff – many from outside the UK – had also been excluded the NHS’ bereavement scheme that grants families indefinite leave to remain in the UK if their loved-one dies of coronavirus.
The Bafta-winning photographer and filmmaker, who took a job as a cleaner at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in east London ‘to help the country through the pandemic’, fought back tears as he recorded a message for the Prime Minister after completing his shift.
He said: ‘I’ve been enjoying the clapping that you and your ministers your fellow ministers do every week. Today. however, I felt betrayed and stabbed in the that you’ve decided to exclude myself and my colleagues, all on the minimum wage, from your bereavement scheme. So if I die fighting coronavirus then my partner isn’t allowed an indefinite leave to remain. This is your way of saying thank you to us.
‘Now I’m sending you this message so I hope you’ll reconsider because I did see a humble Boris after you were discharged from hospital. Us migrants are on the frontline doing these very demanding jobs – the least you can do is to help our families if we die’.
Today Syrian refugee Hassan Akkad (left in scrubs) said he been’stabbed in the back’ after being excluded from the NHS bereavement scheme in a video message sent to the PM hours after he said it was right that foreign NHS staff be charged hundreds of pounds a year for healthcare
The Bafta-winning photographer and filmmaker, who took a job as a cleaner at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in east London ‘to help the country through the pandemic’, has said his partner could be deported if he dies
Approaching 200 NHS health and care workers have died on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic
New Zealand nurse Jenny McGee, 35, (pictured) and Portuguese nurse Luis Pitarma cared for the PM in hospital. It is possible that Ms McKee may have to pay the surcharge because she is from outside the EU
The Government’s NHS bereavement scheme was launched last month and is open to almost all health and social care workers who have died after caring for those contracted Covid-19.
What is the Immigration Health Surcharge? How much is it and who pays?
Workers coming to the UK from outside the European Economic Area are required to pay the fee in order to be able to use the health service.
The NHS surcharge costs £300 per year for student visas and £400 per year for all other visa and immigration applications. It is being put up to £624-a-year from October. And from next January, it will be extended to all EU citizens who move here after Brexit is completed.
A migrant’s dependents usually need to pay the same amounts. You still need to pay even if you have private medical insurance.
Who needs to pay?
- Any national of a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA) not in an exempted category;
- Or anyone applying for a visa to work, study or join your family in the UK for more than 6 months;
For immigration applications made from within the UK, you need to pay if:
- You’re a national of a country outside the EEA or if you’re making an immigration application for any length of time, including applications for 6 months or less.
Who does not need to pay?
- You’re applying for indefinite leave to enter or remain
- You’re a diplomat or a member of a visiting armed forces;
- You’re a dependant of a member of the UK’s armed forces or the dependant of a member of another country’s armed forces;
- You’re a family member of a European national
- You’re applying for a visa for the Isle of Man or Channel Islands
- You’re a British Overseas Territory citizen resident in the Falkland Islands
- You’re an asylum seeker
- A victim of slavery or human trafficking or domestic violence – or their relative;
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government will pay £60,000 to families of those who die in service. And those from outside Europe would also receive indefinite leave to remain.
Those included in the scheme were any full-time and part-time employees, agency and locum workers, as well as retired staff who returned or students who had taken up paid frontline roles to support the coronavirus response.
But the Home Office has since confirmed that social care workers, hospital cleaners and porters, either employed directly by hospitals or agencies, are not included. Many of these lowest paid workers are from outside the EU.
The death toll among NHS staff has hit 181 and among care workers it is 131, Mr Johnson revealed in PMQs in the House of Commons this afternoon. ‘I know the thoughts of the whole House are with their families and friends,’ he said.
But the Prime Minister came under fire from Labour MPs and nursing unions after he refused to back calls for care workers to be exempted from the Immigration Health Surcharge – saying the charge was ‘right’.
Ministers have been accused of ‘penalising’ the very healthcare workers who for the past three months have been treating many of Britain’s coronavirus patients on the NHS frontline.
Critics say they are being ‘charged twice’ for their own NHS treatment because they also pay income tax and national insurance that funds hospitals, GP surgeries and dentists. Migrants already pay for healthcare in the UK through their visa.
In a bruising PMQs encounter with Labour leader Keir Starmer, Mr Johnson was urged to rethink the charge.
But the Prime Minister defended the policy, saying: ‘We must look at the realities – 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.
‘So with great respect to the point (Sir Keir Starmer) makes, I do think that is the right way forward.’
Mr Starmer said he was ‘disappointed’ by the response and promised to table an amendment to the Immigration Bill to exempt NHS and care workers from the charge.
A nursing union has said it is ‘alarmed’ to learn there are no plans to exempt foreign health workers from the NHS surcharge.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has written to the Home Secretary Priti Patel urging her to reconsider the decision and waive the charge ‘as a matter of urgency’ as it ramped up calls it has been making on the subject for two years.
Under immigration rules, workers coming to the UK from outside the European Economic Area are required to pay the fee in order to be able to use the health service.
The NHS surcharge costs £300 per year for student visas and £400 per year for all other visa and immigration applications, according to the Government’s website.
A migrant’s dependants usually need to pay the same amounts.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the union which represents 450,000 health and care workers across the UK, said: ‘We are urging the Home Secretary to reconsider and waive this charge for healthcare staff from overseas as a matter of urgency.
‘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.’
Mr Johnson’s video message from inside no 10 after he was discharged from hospital. He singled out his foreign nurses for praise during his message. But the Government has “no current plans” to review the policy known as the immigration health surcharge (IHS)
The latest NHS and care worker death figures come as tributes flooded in for the two most recent healthcare workers known to have died after contracting Covid-19.
Carlos Sia, who worked for the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, died on Friday, May 15, in the hospital where he worked.
The ‘much-loved’ 62-year-old, who had worked for the trust for five years, had spent several weeks in intensive care.
He has a wife and daughter in the UK, and three sons living in the Philippines.
In a letter to staff, chief executive Matthew Hopkins said: ‘His quiet, gentle and respectful nature, his generosity of spirit, his sense of humour and his calming influence also made him popular with patients.
‘We have lost a valued member of our Trust family – and in Carlos’s case, the word ‘family’ has a special relevance as his wife Cindy works on Avon 2 as a healthcare assistant and his daughter Clair is a nurse on our acute stroke unit.
‘Cindy and Clair are particularly in our thoughts at this sad time, as are all Carlos’s colleagues who worked alongside him and those who cared for him through his illness.’
Tributes have also been paid to Neil Ruch, the first paramedic from the East of England Ambulance Service to lose his life to Covid-19.
The ‘fantastic’ paramedic had been battling coronavirus for a number of weeks and had been on a ventilator in intensive care at Basildon Hospital since last month.
Mr Ruch, who previously worked for the London Ambulance Service, died on Monday.
He had been worked for the East of England Ambulance Service for the past seven years and was based at Basildon ambulance station in Essex.
A statement on the Essex Medical Training Facebook page gave a heartbreaking tribute to the hero paramedic.
It said: ‘Every day heroes, who are stepping out of the comfort zone, donning PPE & making a huge difference on the front line.
Carlos Sia (pictured left), who worked for the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, died on Friday, May 15, in the hospital where he worked. Tributes have also been paid to Neil Ruch (right), the first paramedic from the East of England Ambulance Service to lose his life to Covid-19
Labour leader Keir Starmer today urged Mr Johnson to rethink the Immigration Health Surcharge
‘One such hero has unfortunately made the ultimate sacrifice. Whilst dedicating his career to providing life saving treatment, Neil Ruch contracted Covid-19 and after a long battle, has sadly died.
‘Neil was a fantastic paramedic, a kind, gentle soul, treasured by all that new him.’
Last month, the names of 171 healthcare workers to die after contracting Covid-19.
Among them was orthopaedic surgeon Sadeq Elhowsh, 58, described by his colleagues as ‘a much-loved member of the team’.
He worked at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in Merseyside as a surgeon for 17 years before he died at Whiston Hospital.
In a tribute to the surgeon, who died last month in the hospital he worked at, the father-of-four’s family said: ‘Sadeq was a wonderful husband as well as a devoted father and he dearly loved his family.
‘We cannot put into words the depth of our loss. He loved his work and was dedicated to supporting his patients and his colleagues.’
Josephine Peter, a nurse at Southport and Formby District General Hospital, has been described as a ‘heroine’ by her devastated husband after she died from the virus on Saturday, April 18.
Sadeq Elhowsh, 58, an orthopaedic surgeon who worked at St Helens and Knowley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, died from coronavirus. Pictured with his sons
Josephine Peter, a nurse at Southport and Formby District General Hospital, leaves behind her husband Thabo, her two children Bongani and Buhle and a granddaughter
According to a GoFundMe page set up to honour Mrs Peter, who worked as a nurse for 20 years, she leaves behind her husband Thabo, her two children Bongani and Buhle who live in South Africa and a granddaughter.
She had been working at Southport hospital since February on an agency contract until she fell ill in early April.
James Lock, chief executive of Altrix, the nursing agency that employed her, said: ‘Josephine was a diligent nurse who was highly regarded and liked by the team.
‘She would always go that extra mile and was a pleasure to work with. My team and I send our very best wishes and deepest condolences to Josephine’s family.’
Liz Shale, a 61-year-old NHS administration worker from Leeds, died just two days after being rushed to hospital on Tuesday, April 7.
Liz Shale, 61, an NHS administration worker from Leeds died two days after she was rushed to hospital
Her family, who described her as ‘loving and crazy’ have pleaded with people to ‘take this virus seriously’ after they were unable to visit and say goodbye to her before she died at St James’s University Hospital and will have to watch her funeral via video link due to new restrictions.
The grandmother-of-eight worked for the NHS for more than 20 years and spent the last decade working in palliative care in Bradford.
Her son, Danny, said: ‘She was funny, loving and crazy, she would do owt for a laugh. She was definitely a character.
‘She was always cracking jokes to make them all laugh and keep them motivated.
‘She knew she had to keep going to work when this started and started working from home the week before everyone was told to but even though she had been staying at home, she still got it.’
He added: ‘Our life will never be the same again. My mum won’t get to see my children grow up all because of this virus. How people don’t realise the impact this has?
‘Basically, she’s now just seen as another number – a statistic – and it shouldn’t be that way. People should know who she was, not see her as another person who died.’
Another victim, Kirsty Jones, 41, had been working as a healthcare assistant and recently taken up a position in one of Lanarkshire’s Assessment Centres, based in Airdrie Health Centre, to help in the frontline response against the pandemic.
Juliet Alder, who worked at the Hammersmith and Fulham Mental Health Unit, died from coronavirus aged 58 on Tuesday, April 14
Kirsty Jones, 41, was working at an assessment centre helping in the frontline response. She leaves behind her husband Nigel and two sons, Sam age 14 and Finlay, four
Her death sees her leave behind her husband Nigel, and two sons, Sam aged 14 and Finlay, four.
Mr Jones said: ‘Kirsty devoted her life to caring for others. She was larger than life itself and was a constant source of happiness for all who were around her.
‘Kirsty will be greatly missed by all who knew her. A void has opened in our hearts that will never be filled.’
Tributes have also been paid to Khulisani Nkala, a mental health nurse who died last month.
The 46-year-old was the first staff member at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to died from the virus.
Khulisani Nkala, 46, worked as a mental health nurse for the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and died from the virus on Friday
Dr Sara Munro, chief executive of the trust, said: ‘Khuli was a well-respected and selfless professional nurse who ‘always put the patient first’ and will be greatly missed by his colleagues.’
Juliet Alder, who died from coronavirus aged 58 on Tuesday, April 14, worked at the Hammersmith and Fulham Mental Health Unit supporting older people in the last weeks of their life.
She is the first member of the team to die from Covid-19, leaving behind her husband and daughter, and was described by her colleagues as ‘kind, caring and thoughtful.’
Her coworkers said: ‘She was compassionate to patients, colleagues and carers and maternal towards those who came in contact with her.
‘Juliet had a beaming smile and an infectious laughter and took great pride in looking after others. She’ll be missed by all.’
Yesterday it was announced Manjeet Riyat, a ‘widely respected’ doctor, who became the first Sikh to work as an A&E consultant in Britain, was one of the latest NHS victims of the pandemic.
Manjeet Riyat died at the Royal Derby Hospital on Monday (University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Trust/PA)
The 52-year-old was described by colleagues at the Royal Derby Hospital as the ‘father of the emergency department.’
The married father-of-two, who previously worked at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Lincoln County Hospital, has been described as ‘instrumental’ in building the emergency medicine service in Derbyshire over the past 20 years.
He died in April at Royal Derby Hospital, the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Trust said.
Married father-of-two Craig Wakeham, a doctor at the Cerne Abbas surgery in Dorset for three decades, also died from coronavirus in April.
Married father-of-two Craig Wakeham, a doctor at the Cerne Abbas surgery in Dorset for three decades, died from coronavirus at the weekend, it emerged today
His colleagues at the surgery said: ‘His industry and innovation led our practice for 30 years.
‘He was also a leading light in both the Clinical Commissioning Group and Local Medical Committee, as well as a devoted husband a father to his two boys.
‘His legacy lives on in our patients who he cared for diligently, and in the good name he built for our surgery.’
Dr Amged El-Hawrani became the UK’s first front-line hospital doctor to die from coronavirus following warnings that a lack of protective equipment would cost medical staff lives
Mr Riyat also acted as an emergency medicine tutor at Derby College where he oversaw the education of junior doctors.
His death marks the second at the trust, after Dr Amged El-Hawrani, an ear, nose and throat consultant at Queen’s Hospital Burton, became the first frontline hospital doctor to die in the pandemic.
Today’s figures on the number of health care workers to die after contracing coronavirus were announced as Mr Johnson engaged in bruising clashes with Labour’s Keir Starmer over the handling of the crisis in care homes.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland sparked fury earlier by admitting that ministers ‘chose’ to protect the NHS over care homes because there was not enough coronavirus testing capacity.
Mr Buckland gave the clearest statement yet that a decision was made to prioritise the health service when the outbreak was at its most ferocious.
More than 11,000 people are now believed to have died in care homes since the disease started running rampant, around a quarter of the UK’s total toll. The government has been heavily criticised for sending patients back to homes from hospitals without tests, and not putting routine screening in place for staff and residents.
Mr Buckland fuelled the row this morning by conceding the government had to make a ‘choice’ about where to deploy testing capacity – which was languishing at a few thousand a day in early March, although it has now been ramped up to over 100,000.
‘I think we needed to make a choice about testing and we did decide to focus upon the NHS,’ he told Sky News. ‘The issue with care homes is that we’ve got many thousands of different providers, different settings, there have been lots of examples of care homes that have mercifully stayed infection free, but sadly far too many cases of infection and then death.’
Shadow care minister Liz Kendall said the remarks amounted to a concession that ‘ministers did not give care homes the protection they needed at the start of this pandemic’.
The details emerged as Mr Johnson engaged in bruising clashes with Labour’s Keir Starmer (pictured) over the handling of the crisis in care homes
Mr Buckland fuelled the row this morning by conceding the government had to make a ‘choice’ about where to deploy testing capacity – which was languishing at a few thousand a day in early March, although it has now been ramped up to over 100,000
‘Social care and the NHS are both equally important in the fight against this virus and are inextricably linked. One cannot be prioritised above the other,’ she said.
Care England chief Martin Green said it was a ‘significant’ statement from Mr Buckland and he hoped the government will ‘learn lessons’.
The spat came after Dame Angela McLean, chief science adviser at the Ministry of Defence, highlighted the role capacity had played in key decisions at the daily media briefing last night.
Dame Angela said the advice given to ministers to abandon efforts to contact trade individual cases, which happened on March 12, ‘took account of the testing that was available’.
‘With the testing we had the right thing to do was to focus it on people who were really sick in hospital… it was the right thing to do at the time,’ she said.
She said the ‘scientific advice would be that you need to have a rapid and reliable testing system’. Asked if that was now true, Dame Angela replied: ‘I think it is getting better.’
Coronavirus spreads ‘like wildfire’ through hospital ward, infecting 36 people
A coronavirus outbreak has swept through a hospital ward ‘life wildfire’, with 36 people known to be infected.
A total of 26 staff and 10 patients at University Hospital Ayr are known to have contacted Covid-19.
The outbreak was in a ward not connected with treating the virus.
One source told the Ayrshire Post: ‘It was terrible to see.
A total of 26 staff and 10 patients at University Hospital Ayr are known to have contacted Covid-19
‘This ward was in a Green Zone, yet the virus spread like wildfire.’
Hospital bosses say the ward is now back running normally after new anti-infection measures were introduced.
Dr Crawford McGuffie, Medical Director of NHS Ayrshire, the trust which runs the hospital, said: ‘NHS Ayrshire and Arran has robust processes in place to manage cases of COVID-19 amongst patients and staff to reduce the risk of outbreaks developing.
‘Due to the nature of the incubation period, the fact that individuals can spread the virus before they have become symptomatic, and the fact that high numbers of people experience very mild symptoms, outbreaks of COVID-19 will remain an ongoing risk in healthcare as long as the virus is circulating in the wider community.
‘Appropriate infection prevention and control measures, including hand hygiene, social distancing and PPE are all important in reducing this risk.
‘When outbreaks occur, we respond promptly to minimise the risk.’
Mr McGuffie added: ‘Further appropriate infection prevention and control measures were implemented and affected patients and their families were informed of the outbreak.
‘The ward has now returned to normal working.’