NHS charging for vulnerable migrant pregnant women sparks safety concerns

on 22 February 2022

The UK Government’s NHS charging of vulnerable migrant pregnant women has sparked safety concerns from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

The midwifery trade union RCM is calling for the UK Government to scrap NHS charging for migrant pregnant women because it’s stopping these women from engaging with maternity services and puts their safety and pregnancy at risk.

RCM outlined their position at the Houses of Parliament, highlighting the inequalities facing migrant pregnant women who are at higher risk of experiencing poor outcomes for themselves and their babies.

Author of the guidance ‘Caring for pregnant women’ and Professional Policy Advisor at RCM, Claire Livingstone, said: “A woman’s immigration status should never be a deciding factor on whether she can access pregnancy care, but for some women this is the case and that is shameful. The system puts barriers between them and our maternity services that can hinder them from using them, such as the fear of being charged when many cannot afford it. Because of this I have real fears that many of these women are not engaging with maternity services, are falling through the cracks, and are not getting the safe maternity care they need. This can have serious consequences on the safety and outcomes of their pregnancy for them and their baby.

“Women from Black and Asian backgrounds – which includes many migrants – are also significantly more likely to die in and around pregnancy compared to white women. This is a shocking indictment for a nation that prides itself on championing equality for all.”

RCM also highlights that asylum seeking pregnant women can be moved to unfamiliar locations at very short notice which can have an impact on their maternity care and breakdown relationships they have made with their midwife.

Currently, asylum seeking women should not be relocated from 34 weeks of pregnancy. The RCM is calling for this to be reduced to 20 weeks. Afterwards, pregnant migrant women should only be relocated after the birth once a GP or health visitor agrees that the mother and baby are fit and healthy to be moved, and that any referrals for care and support have been made.

RCM’s position statement can be found here.