CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed two Tory U-turns in a matter of hours yesterday after Boris Johnson dropped the surcharge for NHS and care workers from overseas.

Earlier Home Secretary Priti Patel backtracked on the so-called bereavement scheme, which initially offered indefinite leave to remain to families and dependents of some NHS staff killed by coronavirus, including nurses, biochemists and radiographers.

She said it would now be extended to all NHS workers, including those in support roles such as care workers, cleaners and porters, as well as agency staff.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) said it was “unconscionable” that a worker would have to die for their family to acquire secure status here and the original decision to exclude those in support roles had shocked many.

“We welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to overrule his Home Secretary and waive the NHS surcharge for migrant workers in the health and care systems,” said JCWI chief executive, Satbir Singh.

“As with yesterday’s

U-turn over the exclusion of most NHS workers from the bereavement scheme, it’s depressing that it’s taken nearly two months for the Government to listen and it’s disappointing that ministers still refuse to offer protection and support to key workers outside the NHS.

“Bus drivers, shop workers, cleaners, security guards – all working at minimum wage and maximum risk to keep us safe.

“All our essential workers deserve the security of knowing that this place can be their home too and the public supports our call to give them the fair treatment they deserve.

“Instead of papering over the cracks in a broken system, ministers must now urgently lay out plans to make it easier and more affordable for all key workers to safely settle in the UK.

He added: “It’s the very least we could do to show our thanks.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed Johnson’s U-turn, and added: “This is a victory for common decency and the right thing to do.

“We cannot clap our carers one day and then charge them to use our NHS the next.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said officials were now working on how to implement the change and full details would be announced “in the coming days”.

However, the £400 surcharge will remain in place for other visa applicants and is due to rise to £624 in October, prompting one woman who was previously at the centre of a visa battle, to ask why successful applicants should have to pay it at all.

American Juli Colaianni is now settled in Edinburgh with her Scottish husband Tony Duffy after fighting for two years to join him in Scotland.

They finally secured her spouse visa in October, but she wondered why she had to pay the surcharge to the UK Government when healthcare is devolved to the Scottish Government.

“It’s insane to me that we have to pay a health surcharge as well as National Insurance, yet the Home Office is still trying to say that non-EU immigrants – and soon all immigrants regardless of where they are from – are a drain on the public purse when it’s very obvious we aren’t,” Colaianni told The National.

“It’s quite easy to see we pay a lot into the system and contribute positively to society as a whole, yet are still being played out to be the bad guys.

“I really can’t wait for the day the truth comes out and the Home Office is proven beyond all reasonable doubt to be the real villains in this story.”