Court rejects Maternity Action legal challenge to NHS charging

Politics Maternity Services

The RCM is disappointed that the High Court has refused Maternity Action permission to proceed with a judicial review of the Government’s NHS charging regime for migrants. The case was brought by Maternity Action on behalf of a woman who was charged more than £10,000 for accessing vital maternity care.

Charging vulnerable migrants 150% of the standard tariff for NHS care for vital maternity care deters, delays, or denies access to healthcare for pregnant women, those giving birth, or those who need postnatal treatment. This has an immensely negative impact on both their own health and their child’s health. This is particularly concerning as many migrant women are often socially and economically marginalised and are already at greater risk of poor maternal health outcomes, including maternal death, and premature birth.

The NHS charging regulations are also having a profoundly negative impact on midwives, who report that charging has hindered their ability to form good relationships with vulnerable women. Midwives and other health care workers also report feeling stressed and anxious when having to apply the regulations which are complex and often misapplied.           

Charlotte Wilson, Policy Advisor for the RCM, said: “While we recognise the need to safeguard NHS resources, this is not the way to go about it. To date, there has been no robust assessment of the effect this policy has on health outcomes, and there has been no robust assessment of whether this scheme is cost effective, or capable of achieving its purpose. Current figures demonstrate that less than 40 per cent of the total sum of charges levied in England have actually been recovered.”

The Court’s decision yesterday (2 July 2020) was based purely on the technical legality of the scheme. The decision has no bearing on whether the scheme is effective or appropriate. The RCM will continue to join Maternity Action demanding that the Government stop putting vulnerable migrant women’s health at risk by charging them for essential NHS care. Of course, this is more important now than ever before, as the pandemic has created significant new dangers for pregnant women.

Midwives and health care workers should be aware that maternity care must never be refused, delayed or in any way disrupted by issues such as immigration status, charging or ability to pay. 

For more information and to see what you can do to help see the Maternity Action web page.