BORIS Johnson’s swift U-turn to scrap the surcharge, levied on overseas health and care staff to help pay for the NHS, has been hailed a “victory for common decency” by Labour while the SNP demanded its abolition for all migrant workers.

Throughout the day pressure from not only opposition MPs but Conservative ones mounted on the Prime Minister, who, just 24 hours after defending the surcharge that hits low-paid foreign hospital cleaners and porters as well as care home staff, ditched it.

With the unease rapidly mounting on Tory benches the prospect of a defeat on the UK Government’s flagship Immigration Bill loomed.

On Wednesday at PMQs, Mr Johnson faced a double attack from Labour and the SNP. Sir Keir Starmer pointed out how the fee - currently £400 a year but due to rise to £624 from October -would take a careworker on the national living wage 70 hours to pay it off.

In his defence, Mr Johnson told MPs he fully recognised the difficulties faced by “our amazing NHS staff,” including those who came from abroad.

However, he insisted the Government had to look at the “realities” and suggested the country could not afford to lose the £900 million the surcharge had brought into the NHS. However, it later transpired the £900m was the total over four years.

Former Conservative Chairman Lord Patten denounced the surcharge applying to foreign care workers as "appalling" and "monstrous" while his fellow Tory grandee Sir Roger Gale, a former party Vice-Chairman, warned Mr Johnson that not to waive the surcharge "would rightly be perceived as mean-spirited, doctrinaire and petty".

However, with minutes to go before the daily Downing St briefing the change of policy was announced.

A No 10 spokesman said Mr Johnson had been “thinking about this a great deal" and as a "personal beneficiary of carers from abroad" he understood the difficulties faced by NHS staff.

He added the PM had asked officials at the Home Office and the Department for Health to remove overseas health and care workers from the surcharge “as soon as possible”

Last night, Sir Keir said: "Boris Johnson is right to have U-turned and backed our proposal to remove the NHS charge for health professionals and care workers.

"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."

Ian Blackford for the SNP said: “I welcome the U-turn on this cruel Tory policy. Boris Johnson should never have imposed the NHS surcharge in the first place but I am pleased to see a change of heart following pressure from the SNP and campaigners.”

He added: "Now we need the Tory Government to scrap the NHS surcharge altogether, build a fairer immigration system, and show a meaningful commitment to NHS and care workers; including by paying them all at least the Real Living Wage.”

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 overseas NHS workers, ranging from medical health staff to porters and cleaners, as well as social care workers.