Pregnant women will have to show ID to give birth in London

London hospitals have run-up more than £10 million of debts after overseas patients not entitled to free care on the NHS failed to pay for their treatment.

The figure – which the Department of Health admits is an underestimate due to difficulties charging foreign patients – emerged today as one of the capital’s biggest hospitals announced plans to force 5,000 pregnant women a year to show photo ID and a utility bill to prove their entitlement to free treatment.

St George’s, in Tooting, is launching the fraud crackdown after losing up to £5million a year treating thousands of overseas patients, including pregnant women sent from Nigeria by alleged fraudsters who view it as an “easy target”.

The hospital treated about 6,000 overseas patients last year but lost £4.6m on those not entitled to NHS care. About half of the 1,783 overseas women who gave birth at St George’s in 2015/16 were later found to be not entitled to free care.

It costs about £5,000 for an uncomplicated birth, but some mothers required lengthy stays and their babies needed specialist care.

The initiative is being monitored by Ministers and the UK Border Agency. If it is successful, it could be rolled out across the NHS under the Government’s wider aim of recouping £500m a year from overseas patients.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England are legally obliged to check whether patients are eligible for non-emergency NHS treatment free at the point of use, and recover costs from the overseas patients who are not normally resident in the UK where charges apply. We welcome St George’s pilot to test new processes to recoup costs from overseas patients and look forward to the results.”

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