Secretary of Health faces legal challenge over charging destitute migrant women for NHS maternity care – Maternity Action

The charity Maternity Action has launched a legal challenge to the Government’s policy of charging destitute migrant pregnant women £7,000 or more to access NHS maternity care. The claim also challenges the charging of other groups of migrant women, including those who have suffered gender-based violence and the wider group of destitute migrant women and their children who are awaiting an outcome on their immigration applications from the Home Office.

The charity demands a full and independent review of NHS charging to assess its impact on all vulnerable groups, particularly in respect of migrant women who are pregnant or new mothers and those who have suffered gender-based violence, who are living in the UK.

Rosalind Bragg, Director of Maternity Action, says:

“Our research with women affected by maternity charging has found that many of these women are in desperate situations, struggling to afford food and accommodation.  They cannot pay £7,000 or more for their maternity care and are avoiding essential medical care in an attempt to save money.

“We have repeatedly asked the Government to undertake a review of the impact of maternity charging on vulnerable migrant women but they have not done so.

“These women are at high risk of serious health problems during pregnancy, birth and postnatally. We should be taking extra steps to ensure they receive the care they need, rather than frightening them away from maternity services.

“We know from our advice service that the exemptions intended to cover vulnerable women are not working. We regularly hear from women who are survivors of FGM, domestic and sexual violence who are facing maternity charges.

Maternity Action’s legal action follows calls from health professional bodies to suspend NHS charging. In December 2018, the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published a joint statement calling for suspension of NHS charging.  In March 2019, the Academy of Royal Colleges issued a statement calling for suspension pending a full and independent review.  In April 2019, the British Medical Association called for a full and independent review of the impact of charging.

Notes:

  1. Maternity Action is a registered charity (1128776) that provides information and advice on the rights and entitlements of pregnant women, young children and their families. Website: https://maternityaction.org.uk It is represented by Janet Farrell of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors in this Judicial Review.

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