By Stephen Adams Medical Editor For The Mail On Sunday
Published: 00:11 GMT, 1 March 2020 | Updated: 09:17 GMT, 1 March 2020
Health tourism on labour wards could be a far bigger problem than officially recognised, according to newly-released figures.
One in every 20 women giving birth in the country’s biggest hospital trust is not eligible for free NHS care, the statistics reveal.
Last year the Department of Health and Social Care decided against rolling out systematic ‘eligibility checking’ of NHS maternity patients – partly because trials of the scheme appeared to show health tourism was not a big issue.
Maternity tourists are each billed around £6,000, typically covering ante-natal care and the delivery. It means Barts is likely to be owed almost £4.5 million by the women [File photo]
But Barts NHS Trust, which runs five hospitals and cares for 2.5 million people across East London, has released figures suggesting about five per cent of pregnant women who gave birth last year were potentially health tourists.
During the financial year 2018-19, trust staff helped deliver 14,842 babies.
Some 739 mothers were not eligible for free maternity care and were invoiced but the figures do not reveal how many paid.
Former NHS cancer surgeon J Meirion Thomas said: ‘These figures show health tourism in maternity departments isn’t trivial, as health mandarins seem to