THE Government's decision to scrap the fee levied on foreign health and care staff to access the NHS in a swift U-turn has been welcomed by workers in Bolton.

PM Boris Johnson has called on civil servants to remove health and care workers from the surcharge as "soon as possible" ­— just one day after saying keeping the fee in place was "the right way forward".

Martin Challender from Bolton Unison said: "This government u-turn is a massive victory for basic human decency and common sense.

"We have front line staff from around the world providing basic care and support to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

"They work in key roles risking their health for others.

"They pay their taxes like everyone else it is appalling that they were ever expected to pay these fees.

"At least the government has had the sense to think this through and take action to sort this out".

A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Johnson "has been thinking about this a great deal" and as a "personal beneficiary of carers from abroad" he understands the difficulties faced by our amazing NHS staff.

The £400 surcharge remains in place for other categories of visa applicants and will increase to £624 in October, as planned.

The change will apply to all NHS workers, ranging from medical health staff to vital porters and cleaners.

It also includes independent health workers and social care workers.

The U-turn comes after senior Tories demanded change, with former party chairman Lord Patten calling it "appalling" and "monstrous".

British Medical Association council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: "It's absolutely crucial, that we recognise and value healthcare workers from overseas, who as this pandemic has clearly highlighted, provide an invaluable service protecting and looking after the health of our nation.

"The scrapping of the surcharge must come into effect immediately to show our gratitude for the effort and dedication our overseas workers give to the NHS and to their patients."

It also came a day after another U-turn when the Government extended a scheme offering indefinite leave to remain to the families of all NHS staff who die as a result of contracting coronavirus.

Care workers, cleaners and porters had originally been left out of the scheme, which only applied to certain occupations including nurses, biochemists and radiographers.