Stop risking babies’ lives by charging pregnant women for NHS maternity care

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As a midwife I know childbirth is a time mothers need to focus on their health and their babies’ health. It’s not the time to be pushed to pay unaffordable charges for maternity care and threatened with deportation. Yet, I see this happening here in the UK and we’re forced to turn away mums getting the care they need.

The Government’s aggressive pursuit of its ‘hostile environment’ policy of charging overseas visitors and other migrants for NHS hospital care has made vulnerable migrant women fear seeking essential maternity care. In some cases they have been denied treatment or wrongly told that they may face pay bills of up to £7,000 in advance. The charges even apply to women who experience a miscarriage or stillbirth.

I am calling for the Health Minister Matt Hancock to scrap these charges.

It's dangerous for mothers and babies, damaging to the midwife-mother relationship, and ultimately costly for the NHS, due to the late diagnosis and treatment of preventable health problems.

The Government’s approach affects the most vulnerable women who have lived in the UK for years - often as a result of leaving a relationship in which they were financially dependent on a male partner, due to domestic violence or relationship breakdown. 

As a midwife I entered my profession to care for all women and their babies, with compassion. It breaks my heart that women will not get the treatment that they need, that they can no longer trust me because a booking appointment ends up as an immigration check.

Britain’s leading doctors, nurses and midwives all say that this is a risk to individual and public health. And a new Maternity Action research report says that charging for maternity care goes against professional ethics of midwifery.

Midwives become midwives to care for women, not to act as border guards as part of a ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy.

So, working with Maternity Action, the Royal College of Midwives and MPs from across the political spectrum, I am calling on Matt Hancock to suspend charging for NHS maternity care. Unless he does this, more lives will be at risk.

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