Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Lord Patten said that the UK was dependent on “people who come from other countries” to staff care homes, adding that it “would be madness and wickedness not to recognise the contribution which these people are making.”
His comments were echoed by Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former party leader, as well as three Conservative chairman of influential Parliamentary committees.
Others went further and threatened to vote for a Labour amendment to the Immigration Bill, which would have abolished the charge for NHS and care workers.
Amid a growing backlash, a Downing Street spokesman confirmed that the charge would be dropped for all NHS workers, ranging from medical health staff to vital porters and cleaners, as well as social care staff.
They added: “As the PM said in the House of Commons, he has been thinking about this a great deal.
“He has been a personal beneficiary of carers from abroad and understands the difficulties faced by our amazing NHS staff.
“The purpose of the NHS surcharge is to benefit the NHS, help to care for the sick and save lives. NHS and care workers from abroad who are granted visas are doing this already by the fantastic contribution which they make.”
Mr Johnson has previously spoken of his admiration for health care workers since being discharged from hospital, and in April singled out two nurses – Jenny McGee from New Zealand and Luís Pitarma from Portugal – who treated him during a critical 48 hours in intensive care.