• Birth Practice and Politics Blog Team Team

A hostile climate for any pregnant woman affects us all.

Image: On display in St Georges University Hospitals. Credit: Docs not Cops.

We want to share a freely available article in which Ed Jones writes from the non-profit, independent media platform, open Democracy, about the upfront NHS charges, introduced in October 2017, giving six reasons why they are harmful to everybody.

As he says, ‘When you’re expecting a baby the last thing you want to be thinking about is whether you can afford over £6,000 to go into hospital for the labour. For most people in England this isn’t yet a consideration but for the past year it has been the reality for many migrant women.' More about the impact on women's lives is evident in the latest report, What Price Safe Motherhood? Charging for NHS Maternity Care in England and its Impact on Migrant Women from Maternity Actionhttps://www.maternityaction.org.uk/2018/09/new-research-renewed-campaigning-on-maternity-care-charging/

A 2016 pilot project in St. Georges in London drew a lot of criticism when all pregnant women were asked for proof of entitlement, (passport and utility bill) before being treated. Last year the government introduced upfront NHS charges for certain migrant people as part of its 'hostile environment'. Before that bills were sent after people received medical care.

Primary care, GP visits, visits to accident and emergency, and treatment for some infectious diseases remains free for all at the point of access, however, secondary care and community care which includes midwifery and abortion services, and care deemed ‘non-urgent’ is now liable for upfront costs for many migrant people.

This article specifically mentions England, as under devolved powers the governments of the devolved regions have been able to some extent to keep more closely to the principle that a national health service free to all at the point of need actually benefits everyone at every income level.

The Windrush scandal has shown how ‘hostile environment’ policies, also present in housing, banking, employment and other areas, can devastate people’s lives. Evidence is mounting that turning medical professionals into border guards is a bad idea. Here’s why - and what we can do about it.

The article is freely available here.