HUNDREDS OF PREGNANT WOMEN WITHOUT LEGAL STATUS ARE AVOIDING SEEKING NHS ANTENATAL CARE
According to charities that work with vulnerable migrant women, “Hundreds of pregnant women without legal status are avoiding seeking NHS antenatal care because of growing fears that they will be reported to the Home Office or face high medical bill”, the Guardian reports.
One NHS trust has contravened its guidelines on maternity care by sending letters to women with complex asylum claims, warning that they will have their antenatal care cancelled if they do not bring credit cards to pay fees of over £5,000 for maternity care.
According to NHS rules, it is legal to ask for payment from those who are not eligible for free care because they are not domiciled in the UK or living there illegally, however, emergency treatment cannot be withheld if a patient cannot pay.
Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS trust states:
“Failure to pay a deposit for treatment may result in your future appointments being cancelled. In addition, overseas visitors who incur costs for treatment and do not pay will be reported by the trust to the Home Office and debt collecting agencies.
“The Home Office will review all records of bad debt and this could be detrimental to any future applications to visit the UK.”
Charity, Maternity Action which runs a helpline for women in this situation said:
“We regularly hear from women who are very distressed about receiving large bills from the NHS for their maternity care. It is pointless sending letters to women who can’t afford to pay for their food and housing”.
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