UK hospitals to send pregnant Nigerian women home

St George's hospital where pregnant Nigerian women give birth on NHS's bill Photo: Dailymail

St George’s hospital where pregnant Nigerian women give birth on NHS’s bill
Photo: Dailymail

Pregnant Nigerian women may have to be sent home from United Kingdom hospital if they do not have the requirement to give birth in the country.

Women will be asked to show passports before giving birth at one of the country’s largest hospitals to cut ‘maternity tourism’.

Expectant mothers will have to provide papers showing they are eligible for free NHS care when they arrive for scans.

Those unable to do so will be referred to the Home Office. They could face deportation, a Daily Mail report says.

Managers at St George’s in Tooting, south London, said they were facing a growing problem of women flying in from Nigeria solely to have babies.

Such abuse is thought to cost the NHS £200million a year for all types of medical treatment.

Women flying in to give birth is a common problem in a number of hospitals, particularly those close to Heathrow and in Manchester.

In one notorious case, Bimbo Ayelabola arrived from Lagos in 2011 to give birth to premature quintuplets at Homerton Hospital, East London.

The NHS failed to chase her in her homeland for the £145,000 costs.

The Department of Health issued new guidelines last year telling hospital staff to ask for passports or proof of identity from any patient before treatment. But few have obeyed because they are too short-staffed or take eligibility for granted.

Managers at St George’s, which serves a population of 1.3million, insist that women will not be turned away if they are in labour.

They will be asked for their passports or other documents at a 12-week scan or antenatal appointment.

These must prove women have lived in the UK for at least six months, which means they are eligible for free NHS care. Without this, they will not be able to carry on with maternity treatment.

Jo Johnson, head of private and overseas patients at the hospital, said health tourism was costing it £4.6million a year.

In board papers obtained by the Health Service Journal, she said four in five overseas patients were absconding before paying their bills. She also said that agents in Nigeria were offering women money to buy flight tickets and come to the UK.

‘The problem is escalating within obstetrics and we have just been made aware that individuals are currently offering paid assistance to women in Nigeria to have their babies for free on the NHS at St George’s,’ she added.

A spokesman for the Department of Health welcomed the scheme but said hospitals should already be asking patients for passports.

And John O’Connell of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘The huge burden on hard-pressed taxpayers caused by health tourism on the NHS is simply unsustainable.’

But others said the policy might see women fleeing from places such as Syria being turned away.

Jessica Ormerod, of the National Health Action Party, said: ‘We are losing our humanity if we can think of excluding the most vulnerable in our society from a basic right to safe childbirth.’

The NHS is far more lax on eligibility checks than the systems of other European countries.

A spokesman from St George’s said it needed to be more vigilant and keep to the guidelines because it treated a large number of patients from overseas who were not entitled to NHS care.

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