Hospital bosses slammed for carrying out identity checks on pregnant patients

Campaigners from Newham Save our NHS wants Barts NHS Trust to stop carrying out ID checks on patient

Campaigners from Newham Save our NHS wants Barts NHS Trust to stop carrying out ID checks on patients. Pic: Newham Save our NHS - Credit: Archant

Campaigners have slammed hospital bosses accusing them of targeting “vulnerable” pregnant women with identity checks.

Members of health campaign group Newham Save our NHS claim Barts NHS Trust – which runs Newham Hospital – is picking on patients who are migrants by asking them for private details when they turn up at the Glen Road site.

The information collected – including a person’s passport number – then gets shared with the Home Office.

Rosamund Mykura, speaking for the campaign, said: “We believe this hostile environment is damaging to individual patient’s health, to public health, to equality and to the trust of our communities in the NHS.

“Patient confidentiality is important. Newham people need to trust the Trust.”

According to papers published by Barts’ board, the Trust reported in July that it makes up to 100 enquiries a week to the Home Office over the immigration status of patients.

The results allow the Trust to decide who is eligible for free NHS treatment. Patients not entitled to it get charged.

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Barts doesn’t refuse treatment “solely because of lack of documentation”, the papers add.

A pilot scheme at Newham Hospital’s maternity department between July and October last year saw 1,497 maternity patients take part. Of these 382 lacked ID.

In total 17 women said they weren’t entitled to free care. They are now faced with paying a share of £104,706 costs.

Inquiries were being carried out on another 77 maternity patients, the board papers state.

Newham Save our NHS campaigners fear Barts’ approach could see people who need treatment staying away from hospital.

Ms Mykura said: “Migrants should not feel scared to use the NHS.”

The campaigners called on Barts to stop asking for ID and “collaborating” with the hostile environment, the name given to government measures designed to make staying in the country difficult for people without the right to remain.

A Barts NHS Trust spokeswoman said: “All NHS trusts have a responsibility to recover costs from those not eligible for free NHS care.

“The pilot we ran among maternity patients at Newham Hospital was part of an initiative involving up to 20 other NHS trusts and was requested by the Department of Health.”

She added that it was clear from the start that no patients would be turned away and no patient had care delayed.

“We are now reviewing arrangements across the Trust to ensure all our patients are subject to appropriate processes and checks in a consistent way.

“We have stopped asking new maternity patients at Newham to bring ID, and anyone who attends an appointment will not be expected to show it,” she said.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The NHS is a national, not an international health service.

“While we expect trusts to charge overseas visitors for using the NHS if they aren’t eligible for free treatment, our guidelines are clear that urgent and immediately necessary care should never be withheld.”