RCM’s new guide warns on discrimination against pregnant migrant women Representational image (iStock)
THE new guidance from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has stated that maternity care for migrant women must not be refused or delayed by immigration status or ability to pay.
Published with support from Public Health England on Monday (20) for midwives, maternity support workers and other maternity staff, the guide outlines the duty of care health staff have towards vulnerable migrant women.
It also advised staff to support them in areas such as mental health, interpreting and financial support.
“The role of midwives and their colleagues is to give these women the care and support they need and are entitled to. Any issues around immigration status and whether or not they should pay for their care are not the responsibility of midwives or MSW,” said Clare Livingstone, professional policy advisor, RCM and the guide’s author.
The guide sets out how to assess women initially, along with advice on communication, how to ensure women’s safety and making sure there are no barriers to any ongoing care needs.
According to ONS data, one in four women is a survivor of sexual violence, and forced migration increases the likelihood of this happening.
The guide also gives key points to consider in the care of survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Ros Bragg, director of Maternity Action said: “Charging migrant women for maternity care increases stress and anxiety for a group who are already at increased risk of destitution and homelessness. Many women avoid maternity as they are fearful of incurring debts they cannot pay.
“Our research has shown that exemptions from charging are not working. Vulnerable women are being wrongly invoiced for care and Trusts are aggressively pursuing debts from women who are manifestly unable to pay.”
RCM guide has clarified that various myths such as those saying all migrants must pay for NHS care and midwives have a duty to report immigration status are wrong.
Livingstone added: “There must be no barriers that prevent or make these women fearful of coming to our maternity services for the care they need. This can have very serious consequences for their pregnancy, their baby and their own health.
“Migrant women have a right to NHS maternity services, just like any other woman in this country. Midwives also should not be pressured into reporting women’s immigration status.”