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Midwives could be told to check mothers’ ID in ‘health tourism’ crackdown

NHS hospital plans to ask women to show ID before providing maternity care.

An NHS hospital is proposing to make women show identification before providing them with maternity care in a bid to crack down on so-called health tourism.

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London has set out the proposal. It could mean women who attend hospital would need to show photo ID or proof, where appropriate, of their right to remain in the UK. Emergency patients would not be asked for their ID, the trust said.

Home Office ‘very keen’

The plan, revealed in the trust’s October board papers, would be piloted before full implementation. The papers state the Home Office is ‘very keen’ to support such a scheme.

If women were unable to provide identification they would be sent to the trust’s overseas patient team for specialist document screening, in liaison with the UK Border Agency and the Home Office.

The board papers state there is a rising number of overseas visitors receiving NHS care who are not entitled to it.

Racketeers

‘The problem is escalating in obstetrics and we have just been made aware that individuals are currently offering paid assistance to women in Nigeria to have their babies free on the NHS at St George’s,’ an email in the board papers states.

The email, written by Jo Johnson, head of private and overseas patients for the trust, adds: ‘St George’s is targeted as it does not currently have a robust process to check eligibility.’

The email goes on to say the local health economy is losing around £4.6 million a year from patients accessing the system who are not entitled to do so.

Care regardless of status

Royal College of Midwives chief executive Cathy Warwick expressed concern.

She said: ‘The law says, and government policy states, that trusts must offer care to women in labour, irrespective of their immigration status.

‘On the wider level, midwives have more than enough to do without checking women’s eligibility and determining their immigration status. They are not border guards; they are healthcare professionals there to deliver clinical care to all women. This is not their job and never should be.’

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