Guest Blog: Guidance launched for improving access to NHS maternity care for women affected by charging

on 19 November 2019

Maternity Action and the RCM have put together guidance that will be of use to Overseas Visitor Managers, Directors and Heads of Midwifery, and NHS staff caring for migrant women. It covers various aspects of charging policy and practice within NHS Trusts.

Many migrant women in need of maternity care are now charged upwards of £7,000 for their NHS care as a result of the NHS charging overseas visitors regime. There is good evidence to show that charging acts as a barrier to accessing maternity care this has an impact on midwives’ ability to carry out their professional duty of care.

At the TUC Congress in September 2019, the RCM tabled a motion calling for the charging regulations to be immediately suspended. Despite evidence that the policy causes serious harm to individuals and undermines the founding principles of the NHS, the policy still has not been properly reviewed.

Charging represents a barrier to women’s access to maternity care right now. We know that many midwives go above and beyond to make sure that all women get the care they need. For instance, midwives have told us that they visit women at home when women can’t afford the transport, or spend lots of time encouraging women to attend all their appointments, despite their fear of charged.  However, there is much more that NHS Trusts can do to minimise the negative impacts of charging on migrant women’s access to maternity care.

The guidance is based on the following set of objectives:

  • Women should not be deterred from seeking maternity care by the charging practices of NHS Trusts.
  • Women should not be refused maternity care or face delays in accessing care for any reason relating to charging practices.
  • Women who are able to pay for their maternity care should be offered realistic repayment arrangements, which can be revisited when their circumstances change.
  • Women who are not able to pay for their maternity care should have their charges written off, without negative impacts on any future immigration applications.
  • Women affected by charging should have access to free, independent legal advice.

By taking this guidance to your Trust, you can make a real difference to how these regulations are implemented. If you would like a hard copy, please email [email protected]

As well as talking to your Trust about mitigating the worst effects of charging, we need everyone who cares about this issue to speak up. Maternity Action has produced a simple Campaign Toolkit with tips on how to write a letter to your local paper, an email to send to your MP, reading materials, and how to raise awareness of the issue locally.

Maternity Action is also challenging the Government in court over its policy of charging vulnerable women for their maternity care. You can find out more about our legal action and you can support us by spreading the world and donating to our CrowdJustice fundraiser.