Maternity care for undocumented migrant women: The impact of charging for care

Maternity care in the NHS is chargeable for most women without indefinite leave to remain in the UK, despite evidence that recent migrants face higher risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes than the general population. Maternity care must be offered regardless of a woman's ability to pay but, in practice, charging deters many pregnant women from accessing maternity care, or results in late booking and missed appointments.

Standard midwifery policy stresses the importance of early booking and continuity of midwifery care, especially for women with high-risk pregnancies due to underlying medical conditions and complex social factors. The government has justified charging ‘overseas visitors’ to prevent ‘health tourism’ and to save costs, but there is no evidence to support the claim of ‘health tourism’ or that charging actually saves the NHS money. Midwives need to be well-informed about women's entitlements to maternity care and the importance of ensuring that care is provided.

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