739 women denied free NHS maternity care in Barts NHS Trust Hospitals

Press statement from Newham Save our NHS, Waltham Forest Save our NHS and Tower Hamlets Keep our NHS Public

For immediate release 24th February 2020

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  • North-east London community campaign groups for the NHS reveal the shocking total of 739 women refused free NHS maternity care, approximately 5% or 1 in 20 pregnant women registering for NHS maternity care at three hospitals in the three north-east London boroughs concerned.
  • All three hospitals are run by Barts NHS Trust, which has charged 456 women at Newham Hospital, 120 women at Whipps Cross Hospital in Waltham Forest  and 163 women at the Royal London Hospital in Tower Hamlets.
  • The figures emerged after Newham Save our NHS asked a question to the Barts NHS Trust Board, which this month, in their reply, gave the total numbers of 739 maternity patients charged for NHS maternity care in hospital in the financial year 2018-2019.

Dr Applebee, a GP in Tower Hamlets, joined health campaigners from the three north-east London boroughs where these hospitals are located, to write to Matt Hancock, the government Secretary of State for Health. The campaigners say that charging maternity patients for NHS care in these boroughs is a public health policy problem and they call on the government to end the Hostile Environment and patient charging in the NHS.  While NHS maternity care is never refused, free NHS maternity care is refused, as seen in the cases of these 739 women.  Although Barts NHS Trust did not create this Hostile Environment,  Barts NHS Trust tries to follow government regulations, which results in turning away patients from free NHS care.

“Charging overseas visitors for NHS Care is barbaric in that it deters the most vulnerable in society from seeking the medical care that they need in a timely fashion through fear of destitution and deportation. Charging also goes against the founding principles of the NHS which were of a comprehensive health service, publicly provided, publicly funded through taxation and free at the point of delivery to all. Nye Bevan never intended the overseas visitor to pay and indeed a large proportion of NHS staff, many of whom work in the most lowly paid jobs, are from overseas. The NHS would not survive without them and we owe them a debt of gratitude.”

– Dr Jackie Applebee, GP in Tower Hamlets

“The Home Office’s reputation has been trashed by its repeated mistakes, which leads to denial of free NHS care for innocent patients, as seen in the Windrush scandal.  It is wrong that residents feel intimidated by the NHS. Sending patients’ names to the Home Office for checking is a bad for the affected patients, and for those who, having heard about patient charging, are then too scared to engage with NHS maternity services . Pregnant women can be asked to prove they are ‘ordinarily resident’ to get free treatment.  The rules are complex, leading to NHS mistakes, which can affect any one of us, especially when the Home Office gets its data wrong.”

– Campaigner Rosamund Mykura, on behalf of community NHS campaign groups in the three boroughs affected