Pregnant women to show passports at hospital before giving birth in UK

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105339352_Embargoed_to_0100_Thursday_August_11__File_photo_dated_05-09-10_of_a_pregnant_woman_as_a_c-large_trans++wa5Jnl6ZbmW0SCmJ33EhWMQGOPRQ3Xmga691fuPSfr0Pregnant women will be forced to hand over passports before they give birth at NHS hospitals under controversial proposals to clamp down on health tourism.

A pilot scheme backed by the Home Office will see every mother-to-be told to prove their right to use the health service when their labour is booked in.

The London trust behind the scheme said all those seeking to give birth would be asked for photo identification, or proof of right to remain in this country.

The trust board papers also say changes in the law will mean patients are charged for ambulance and A&E services if they cannot provide proof of identity, unless the situation is an emergency or matter of life and death.

At booking every patient will need to show a form of photo ID or proof of their right to remainTrust board papers

St George’s University Hospitals Foundation trust said the problem of maternity tourism was escalating at hospitals across the country.

It said it had fallen victim to “organised illegal activity” which has seen conmen making money by charging women from Nigeria to have babies on the NHS.

The trust said it was now proposing a “blanket” approach to all women in order to avoid charges of discrimination.

Board papers reveal that the pilot scheme is being devised as part of national efforts to ensure that proof of ID is routinely presented before patients access all NHS care, including at Accident & Emergency.

NHS trusts are already supposed to charge overseas patients from outside Europe for the cost of healthcare, unless they have lived in the UK long enough to become eligible for treatment.

But until now, there have been limited attempts to pursue costs of maternity care, with bills only sent after the birth, and often going unpaid.

Pregnant woman with midwife
The policy would apply to new mums CREDIT: DAVID JONES /PA

Under the new proposals, women will have to prove their right to use the NHS when their procedure is planned.

“At booking every patient will need to show a form of photo ID or proof of their right to remain (asylum status, visa, etc),” the October trust board papers say.

“Any patient who is unable to do this will be referred to the trust’s overseas patient team for specialist document screening, in liaison with the UK Border Agency and the Home Office,” they continue.

The papers, seen by Health Service Journal, state that the trust would create a “blanket process for every woman referred or self-referred to St George’s for obstetric care” in order to avoid any charges of discrimination.

“No one will be discriminated against,” the document says. “The intention is for this to become standard procedure.”

The board papers state that the Home Office is “very keen to formally support this pilot”.

British passports 
Expecting mums could have to show their passport  CREDIT: ANDY RAIN/EPA

In the documents, Jo Johnson, the trust’s head of overseas patients, says increasing numbers are receiving care to which they are not entitled, with a surge in maternity cases.

“The problem is escalating within obstetrics and we have just been made aware that individuals are currently offering paid assistance to women in Nigeria to have their babies for free on the NHS at St George’s,” he warns.

Mr Johnson said the trust was being targeted because it did not carry out robust checks, leading to the loss of around £4.6 million from the local NHS year, with four in five overseas patients absconding or refusing to pay bills.

In recent years, the NHS has attempted to claw back more spending on patients who are not eligible for care.

Last year ministers said this would include casualty visits, though they said emergency care should not be delayed.

The board papers say new national guidance is expected to advocate routine presentation of proof of identity of eligibility for NHS care.

-telegraph

ABOUT: Nana Kwesi Coomson

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A Freelance Journalist, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist. Editor-in-Chief of www.233times.com. A contributory writer for Ghanaian Chronicle Newspaper. An alumnus of Adisadel College where he read General Arts. He holds first degree in Bachelor of Arts from the University of Ghana; Political Science (major) and History (minor). He has also pursued MSc Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Energy with Public Relations (PR) at the Robert Gordon University in the United Kingdom. His mentors are Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffet, Sam Jonah, Kwaku Sakyi Addo and Piers Morgan

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