NHS spends £13.3 MILLION in a year on foreign mothers’ births

NHS spends £13.3 MILLION in a year caring for more than 3,000 foreign mothers who came to the UK to give birth – with one hospital racking up a £1.7m bill

  • It can cost thousands of pounds to give birth in the UK as a foreign national 
  • As emergency treatment, childbirth can be treated first then the cost reclaimed
  • But only £4.9m was successfully claimed back by the NHS in 2017-2018

The NHS spent more than £13million helping thousands of women from abroad give birth last year.

So far less than half of that money has been claimed back after it was spent on health tourists giving birth on maternity wards in England.

And one hospital trust, Barts Health, racked up a bill of £1.7million caring for 232 women who had their children in its hospitals, The Sun revealed.

Critics called the expenditure ‘ludicrous’ after it was revealed less than half the money has been claimed back.

A total of 3,891 foreign maternity cases were recorded in English hospitals in 2017-2018, costing the health service £13.3million (stock image)

It can cost thousands of pounds for a woman to have her baby delivered in an NHS hospital if she isn’t a UK resident, and extra care costs even more. 

But because childbirth is a medical emergency, hospitals will deliver a baby for free and may try to reclaim money for extra care later.

This doesn’t always work as planned, however – only £4.9million out of the £13.3m spent in 2017-18 was reclaimed by the NHS.

‘It is ludicrous that thousands of pregnant women arrive in England to have their child for free,’ said Joyce Robins, spokesperson for Patient Concern told The Sun.

Some 3,891 foreign maternity cases were recorded by the NHS in 2017 and 2018 – suggesting more than 10 ineligible women per day were giving birth in NHS hospitals.


A&E and GP treatment in the UK are free for everyone. 

People who are ordinarily resident in the UK, meaning they are there legally and have been for six months and don’t have plans to leave, are entitled to free NHS hospital care.

People from European Economic Area (EEA) countries may be able to get free care in the UK if they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – the care is paid for by an agreement between European countries.

Free care is also available to people who have claimed asylum, are refugees, are in full-time education, are a UK Government employee, or are a victim of human trafficking.

Non-EEA people who have applied for a visa to live in the UK but have been there for less than six months must pay a health surcharge of £400 per year which entitles them to the same level of care as an ordinarily resident person.

If a non-EEA national does not pay the surcharge and needs NHS care they may be charged for it according to a National Tariff Payment System.

Source: Department of Health

One new mother managed to get away without paying a £116,000 bill owed to the Royal Free London NHS Trust.

After Barts Health, three of the five with the biggest foreign mother care bills were in hospitals in London, with one in Essex and another in Leicester.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ spent £811,565; King’s College £636,610; Barking, Havering and Redbridge £741,812; and University Hospitals of Leicester £450,355.

The figures come after an article written last month suggested the UK is breaking United Nations rules by not offering free healthcare to undocumented migrant children.

A group of seven academics, including a Public Health England spokesperson, said the health service must change track and improve its care for children.

As many as 65,000 children who were born in the UK may be being denied free NHS care because of a ‘hostile environment’ policy, their editorial in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood said.

Non-EU migrants living in the have to pay £400 per year for access to NHS health care, though paying for individual treatments may cost far more.

The prospect of paying for this care may put families off seeking it and end up putting their health at risk.

However, caring for foreign visitors costs the NHS as much as £2billion per year – the amount being successfully recovered is rising.

Health minister Stephen Hammond told The Sun: ‘While nobody will ever be denied urgent care, we are ensuring the NHS continues to charge visitors who aren’t eligible for free treatment and it’s great to see that the NHS is recovering millions every year to re-invest in frontline services.’ 

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