HEALTH and care workers should be given indefinite leave to remain in the UK, the Liberal Democrats have urged.

The party will today bring forward a bill in the House of Commons aiming to protect the employable status of foreign nationals working in the health and social care industries. 

The party claims it has secured support from members of opposition groups including Labour, the Conservatives, SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru, the DUP and Alliance parties. 

The 10-minute rule bill will be brought forward today as MPs return from the summer recess.

Christine Jardine, LibDem MP for Edinburgh West and the party’s Home Affairs spokeswoman, said it is unacceptable that NHS workers who are from other countries are putting their lives at risk during the pandemic and could still be asked to leave the UK. 

She said:  “Foreign nationals in the NHS have been on the frontline in protecting us from Covid-19, putting themselves at risk and in many cases paying the ultimate price.

“Their skills have been vital to all of us throughout this crisis. The least we can do now is to offer them the opportunity to stay and the security of knowing what their future holds.

“I’m delighted that so many MPs from across Parliament are supporting this initiative to support those who have done, and will continue to do, so much for this country.”

The Immigration (Health and Social Care) Bill comes after the Prime Minister announced earlier this year that foreign nationals working for the NHS would have the health service surcharge waived.

Boris Johnson made the decision a month after he was released from hospital after himself contracting coronavirus

Many of the staff who treated him were foreign nationals, and the experience is thought to have been related to the U-turn. 

Usually foreign nationals have to pay a levy if they need treatment on the NHS while they are in the UK. 

The fee, currently £400, is due to rise to more than £600 next month and will extend to EU citizens from January 1, 2021. 

Campaigners and politicians argued the fee should be dropped for those working in the health service as many of those subject to the charges were working to save the lives of those who had coronavirus. 

While the move by Boris Johnson was welcomed, some NHS workers are understood to be still paying the fees.

In a further blow for migrant workers, many social care employees were excluded from the Home Office’s new plans for health and care visas. 

Skilled workers from abroad who want to work in the NHS will be able to apply, however, many lower-paid staff will not be able to gain a visa under the new points-based system.

The controversial decision to exclude social care staff angered critics, with Nicola Sturgeon saying at the time it could have a “devastating impact” on Scotland’s social care workforce. 

Priti Patel was accused by other opposition politicians of underplaying the role social care staff had played during the height of the pandemic, despite the country being encouraged to “clap for carers” every week.

Ms Sturgeon previously said of the decision: “I think potentially it will have a devastating impact on the social care workforce.

“Between six per cent and 8% of our social care workers right now are from countries elsewhere in the European Union.

“Particularly now, when we owe so much to our social care workforce, to exclude them from this visa risks sending a message that we are not grateful for the contribution they have made.

“It’s the wrong decision and I will continue to make very strong representations to the UK Government to change that.”

Under the new scheme, applicants must meet a salary threshold of £25,600 to be eligible to apply unless they are entering a shortage occupation, such as nursing and medicine.