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Midwives forced to ‘act as border guards’ as hostile environment continues to blight Britain

MIDWIVES are being forced to “act as border guards” as the legacy of Theresa May’s “obnoxious” hostile environment continues to blight Britain. 

A new study by charity Maternity Action has found that controversial NHS charges for pregnant women are putting unborn babies at risk.

Mums without secure immigration status face paying £7,000 in hospital costs under the Tory’s draconian Immigration Act.

Now the law will be challenged by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) as its delegates gather at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference in Brighton.

The RCM is putting forward a motion to be heard today calling for the end of maternity care charges.

The midwives will also warn that some mums-to-be with “settled” status have been wrongly charged by hospitals.

Their report adds to earlier evidence compiled by the RCM that found some women were seeking maternity care late in their pregnancy.

Others are missing important tests and treatments, or avoiding antenatal care altogether out of fear of charges and Home Office sanctions.

RCM general secretary Gill Walton said: “Women affected by these charges are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“We believe that maternity care should be exempt from NHS charging altogether to protect and promote maternal and new-born health.”

The RCM delegates are particularly concerned at the increased risks of “maternal deaths and premature birth” as a result of the charges.

The union’s motion highlights that “the government started more rigorously enforcing charges for migrant women” in 2017, when Ms May had been replaced as Home Secretary by Amber Rudd.

The Tory government’s decision to start billing women 150 per cent of the standard tariff has meant “they are being asked to pay more than the actual cost,” the motion notes.

It warns that the charges run into tens of thousands of pounds and that Home Office officials are being informed when women are unable to pay.

The proposed resolution, which is likely to find unanimous backing from Britain’s labour movement, states: “The latest round of regulations point to more aggressive efforts to identify and charge migrant women. 

“Requirements to produce ID before receiving care are an additional barrier to access for these pregnant women and distract from the NHS’s caring-first ethos.

“We do not believe midwives should be acting as border guards.”

Researchers interviewed 15 midwives as part of the study.

One was quoted as saying: "I am not here to enforce immigration rules, I am not here to enforce people's entitlement, I have a duty of care as a midwife and I need to fulfil that duty of care.”

Calling for the suspension of the charging regime, Ms Walton added: “Midwives should not act as gatekeepers to the maternity services.

“They owe a duty of care to all pregnant women who seek care from them and they should provide care to all pregnant women irrespective of ability to pay.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "We take the provision of maternity services very seriously - and we will never refuse maternity care, regardless of whether someone can pay.

"Every taxpayer supports the health service and so it is only right that overseas visitors contribute towards their treatment costs but exemptions are in place to protect vulnerable people who receive care free of charge.

“We want clinicians to be able to concentrate on delivering the best healthcare and midwives and doctors are not responsible for checking if a patient is eligible for free care or for recovering those costs.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth MP hit back, telling the Morning Star: “The Tories have refused to make public equality assessments of this charging regime.

“We all know it’s part of their obnoxious ‘hostile environment’ policies and straight out of the Trump playbook.

“I’ve long called for these regulations to be suspended.

“It’s beyond contempt to be putting mothers and babies at risk like this.”

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