Will The NHS Force Women To Show Passports Before Giving Birth?

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Pregnant women could soon be forced to show their passports before they're allowed to give birth in an NHS hospital. St George's Hospital in London is considering asking patients to show ID to prove they are eligible for free treatment to clamp down on health tourism, the BBC reported. Women are already asked to fill in forms with details from their passports or other ID to prove they're eligible when they book in for antenatal care, but some leave those sections blank. St George's, which treats many patients from overseas, said the measure wouldn't apply to patients requiring urgent care and that it would better enable them to use resources wisely. The pilot scheme is being supported by the government. Patients who can't show valid ID "will be referred to the trust’s overseas patient team for specialist document screening, in liaison with the UK Border Agency and the Home Office,” according to the hospital trust's board papers, The Telegraph reported. Critics say the plan could be dangerous as it may discourage women from seeking treatment. Cathy Warwick of the Royal College of Midwives called on the hospital's trust to clarify its policy and reassure pregnant women that they will receive care, regardless of their immigration status. She added: "To be clear, the law says, and government policy states, that trusts must offer care to women in labour, irrespective of their immigration status in the country," reported the BBC. Warwick said the measure "could potentially have a serious impact on the health of the mother and their baby and the outcome of the pregnancy." A spokesman for St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the plan is in keeping with official guidelines. He said: "The guidelines state that hospitals should endeavour to check patients for their eligibility when accessing non-emergency NHS treatment. We are not doing this effectively enough at present, and are looking at ways in which we can improve this," reported the BBC.

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