New research finds that NHS trusts wrongly charge highly vulnerable immigrant women for maternity care.
Maternity Action, which conducted the study, said that “scared women” call its helpline to say that they are too afraid to attend prenatal appointments if they pay for their medical care.
The organization found that many NHS trusts “routinely ignore or misinterpret” the law requiring payment to women abroad for maternity care, even though it is the government’s own policy that the most vulnerable women should not be charged. .
The rules specify that foreign women from outside the EU expecting a child must pay for NHS care, and maternity care debts will affect future immigration applications.
The fee starts at around £ 7,000, but is likely to double if there are complications with the pregnancy.
Anne, whose daughter was born prematurely and died shortly after her birth, is in the process of challenging the NHS charges because she was homeless.
She said: “I did not attend any prenatal appointments because I did not know if I would have to pay. When I was 28 weeks pregnant, I was in so much pain and I went to the hospital. My daughter was born but she only lived a few hours.”
“While the baby was blue in my hand, the lady from the outer office came over and said, ‘If you sleep in our bed, we’ll charge you.’
“They were like a business, even though I had just lost my baby and was crying. I received a bill of approximately £ 5,000 from the NHS before I could bury my daughter.”
Ann said debt firms were calling and texting her every day to urge her to pay, adding that she had to keep making it clear that she had absolutely no money and that her daughter had died. .
She said, “I still owe that money now and I get letters and phone calls. I regularly run out of food so my other son can eat, but I don’t know how I’ll pay for it.”
The deaths of three pregnant women were directly linked to the conservative government’s tariff system in a major report published in December. The women died after a delay in seeking help due to the misconception that they would have to pay for care.
Ross Bragg, director of Maternity Action, said: “Many women and families are likely to come here from Afghanistan, and when they do, they will face a severe maternity fee system that cannot be trusted to protect them.”
She said it was difficult to “overstate” the health implications of imposing maternity fees on the health of mothers and their children.
“We are asking the government to immediately suspend the charge for maternity care in light of our findings,” added Prague.
Claire Livingston, Professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Carrying these women is not only wrong, it is dangerous. There should be no barriers that prevent or make these women fearful of coming to our maternity services for receive care they need.
“Many people have come from conflict zones and may have received little or no prenatal care. This can have very serious consequences for their pregnancies and their children and migrant women are entitled to NHS maternity services, just like anyone else. woman in this country.
“Midwives should not be pressured to report on the situation of immigrant women. Their work and focus should be on providing these women with the best and safest care.”
The current government governs whether people who have applied for asylum, been trafficked or are victims of domestic violence are exempt from NHS fees.
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said: “By charging them, the NHS is putting these women under extreme stress at a time when they need support and full access to maternity care.”