Theresa May has backed a scheme by bosses at a London hospital to make pregnant women show their passport or immigration documents before giving birth.
The proposals at St George’s hospital in Tooting, south London, could become the pilot for a nationwide clampdown.
Marina, a midwife at the hospital, told Socialist Worker, “I don’t think there’s a single one of my colleagues who supports it.
“It was drawn up without any consultation with us, it was all from the finance people—we only heard about it on the news.”
She added, “We would never deny someone treatment, wherever they came from.”
Patients who can’t provide the right documents would be referred “for specialist document screening in liaison with the UK Border Agency and the Home Office.”
Fear of being deported could deter women from coming to hospital, putting their lives in danger.
? This proposal comes from the financial auditors we keep paying to tell us where we’re not being ‘efficient’ enough. “But perhaps we’d be more efficient if we weren’t paying for these financial auditors.”
Bosses claimed St George’s hospital is the target of an organised “health tourism” ring. The right wing press claims that so many pregnant women come from Nigeria that staff refer to a “Lagos shuttle”.
But Marina disagreed. “We don’t see many people who I’d call a health tourist at all,” she said. “The vast majority of women are either settled in Britain or trying to settle.
“It’s true that some are coming here to get a better life—but who can blame them for that?”
Since 2015 NHS trusts are supposed to charge new migrants the cost of their care plus a migrant “surcharge”.
This has kept some people from getting treatment they need, and increased the public health risk of epidemics for everyone.
The money is charged after care has been given, and then rarely chased up. Many trusts can now give artificial impressive-sounding figures for what they are “owed” by migrants—£4.6 million a year at St George’s.
But that’s a small proportion of its £260 million budget.
The only official estimate of health tourism is 5,000-20,000 people a year in England—where the NHS treats a million people every 36 hours.
The financial crisis in the NHS has driven hospitals to claw back every meagre saving they can find.
Joe Clark, a doctor training at St George’s, told Socialist Worker, “Quite apart from the fact they shouldn’t be doing this anyway, it’s dishonest to say it would save money for the NHS.
“You can always find one or two cases to point to. But it would cost a huge amount of money to create the machinery of document checks to enforce it for a tiny minority.”
Such a bureaucracy would demolish the principle of an NHS “free at point of use” for everyone.
The scare gives politicians a scapegoat for the cuts and privatisation that’s driving the NHS crisis.
Marina added, “This proposal comes from the financial auditors we keep paying to tell us where we’re not being ‘efficient’ enough.
“But perhaps we’d be more efficient if we weren’t paying for these financial auditors.”
The Tories’ plan to make firms publish lists of their foreign workers may have been dropped, but schools still have to collect data on their pupils. The school census now requires schools to ask pupil’s nationality.
Kauser Jan, a primary teacher in Leeds, told Socialist Worker, “It’s created a lot of anxiety among parents. One parent came in asking if they needed to show their child’s passports, or what to do if they didn’t have one.
“They ask us what the information is needed for, and we don’t have an answer to give them.”
Schools don’t need to ask for any documents and parents don’t have to give any information they don’t want—but this hasn’t always been made clear. Some schools have allegedly sent different texts and emails to families according to their perceived ethnicity.
Many schools already collect data for the purposes of equalities monitoring and inclusion. “So what does the government need it for? And who can trust them, when it’s the same government that wanted lists of foreign workers?
nursery teacher Paula Champion
But there is resistance. Kauser said, “In my school some parents didn’t reply to the letter—and nothing is being done to chase them up.”
Paula Champion, a nursery teacher in Cambridge, told Socialist Worker, “Many schools already collect data for the purposes of equalities monitoring and inclusion.
“So what does the government need it for? And who can trust them, when it’s the same government that wanted lists of foreign workers?”
The Tories want the data to help them put a figure on the cost of supposed “education tourism” to feed scapegoating of migrants. It will go into a database from which the police and the Home Office have been given information 29 times since April 2012. This includes requests for immigration control.
The NUT teachers’ union issued guidance to all its school groups last week, urging them to contact boards of governors with concerns about the census.
It calls on schools to make it clear to parents that they can say no, to not ask for passport numbers or documents and to not contact the children directly.
Many teachers want to go further. Kauser said, “As part of a work-to-rule we already boycott 25 tasks that aren’t important to education.
“This should be added. It doesn’t contribute to education—we shouldn’t do it.”
Sally Kincaid, a teacher in Wakefield, said the union’s guidance meant school groups would have to meet and discuss the census.
And that this could be an opportunity for teachers to organise against it.
She urged, “Don’t give the information. Parents don’t have to give the information, so teachers don’t have to get it.”
It's a 40-year high
Reports from disputes around Britain
Security services were involved
Move will increase police racism