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Immigration “ups maternity cost”

Maternity services for foreign-born mothers now cost the NHS more than £350m a year, a report has said.

The BBC Ten O’Clock News claims the figure has jumped £200m in the last decade because of rising levels of immigration.

It also found the the number of babies born to British mothers has fallen by 44,000 a year since the mid-1990s, but the amount of babies born to foreign mothers has risen by 64,000, pushing the overall birth rate to its highest level for 26 years.

Professor Philip Steer, editor of the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, told the broadcaster: “The Department of Health has been taken by surprise.

“The demographic change, the sheer numbers, has in some areas increased very substantially without there being any forward planning really to allow for that.”

But a Department of Health spokesman said: “We have this year made improving maternity services a national priority for the NHS which is why the Secretary of State (Alan Johnson) announced last week extra funding for maternity services that will increase over the next three years to reach an additional £122m annually.

“People who move from the European Economic Area to take up permanent lawful residence in the UK as workers, students or on a self-sufficient basis are considered part of the local population and are entitled to maternity care.”

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