Published 13th November 2019
Since the introduction of the Hostile Environment, hospitals have had to charge undocumented migrants living in the UK for non-emergency medical care. This includes pregnant women.
Bills of £7,000 for the basic maternity package (an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery) are the norm. Often they are much higher.
One of the more shocking cases Doctors of the World supported was a woman sent a bill of £9,600 soon after her 22 week miscarriage.
A pregnancy is a great undertaking for all women. But time and time again we see pregnant women at the clinic who delay accessing or avoid visiting hospitals altogether for fear of incurring huge debts that they cannot pay. There is also a very real fear that having an unpaid maternity care debt will result in being reported to the Home Office.
“The NHS says antenatal care should always be provided, but we regularly see women who’ve been put off getting that care, which puts both mother and child at risk,” says Phil Murwill, who runs Doctors of the World’s London clinic. “We see women who are 40 weeks pregnant turning up at our clinic having received no antenatal care at all. This includes extremely vulnerable women such as survivors of trafficking and sexual violence.”
These women are managing their pregnancies with no knowledge of whether their baby is healthy.
When a pregnant woman comes to the Doctors of the World clinic we’re able to support her in registering with a GP and give advice on setting up a payment plan to pay her bill. Our doctors and volunteers know how to build trust and will spend time with women to ensure they’ve received all the care we can offer.
Doctors of the World is also calling on policy makers to withdraw all charging, so that services are always given on need rather than ability to pay.