‘Maternity Tourists’ Flocking UK for Free Care on NHS

  • Foreign women flying in to the UK to give birth days before due date
  • Women show airlines forged doctors notes to conceal length of pregnancy
  • Typically expectant mothers cannot fly if more than 36 weeks pregnant
  • Women arrive at NHS hospitals where they must be admitted to give birth
  • Though charged for treatment very few foreigners pay NHS bill
  • Short-term migrants and tourists cost the NHS £2 billion a year
  • The average cost of birth with one night’s stay in an NHS hospital is £1,092
Immigration officials at one airport stopped more than 300 such health tourists over two years

Immigration officials at one airport stopped more than 300 such health tourists over two years

Hundreds of pregnant foreigners are flying to Britain just days before they give birth so that they can receive free healthcare courtesy of the NHS, a report has found.

The women are duping airlines – who normally forbid expectant mothers more than 36 weeks pregnant to fly – so they can receive the free service.

Expectant mothers trick airlines in their home countries into letting them fly by showing staff forged doctors notes which conceal the length of their pregnancies.

Most of the women who arrive at NHS hospitals then have to be admitted and allowed to give birth, the report found, because their pregnancies were too advanced for them to fly home.

The average cost of a birth with no complications and one night’s stay in an NHS hospital is £1,092.

Immigration officials at one airport stopped more than 300 such health tourists over two years, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

The revelations follow a worrying report in October, that warned that foreign visitors and short-term migrants cost the NHS £2billion a year

It concluded the Health Service has ‘some of the most generous rules in the world’.

And it even found evidence of relatives of migrants taking advantage of visits to Britain to have free treatment.

The bill was put at between £1.9billion and £2billion  – with only around 16 per cent of the money clawed back.

The Government said it would be ‘impractical or inappropriate’ to charge in full some patients, such as students or those with infectious diseases.

The study estimated that £388million goes on foreign patients who should pay for their care but are never charged.

Health tourists – those who specifically travel to the UK for treatment – cost up to £300million more.

The addition of foreigners to hospitals whose resources already struggle to cope with an increasing number British patients is bad news to over-stretched staff.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing and Midwifery said: ‘There is no doubt about the pressures on midwives and maternity services due to the increasing birthrate, the increasing complexity of births and the shortage of midwives in England.

Though the College insists midwives are there to treat any pregnant woman who presents themselves in need of care, there are concerns surrounding the added strain on staff.

‘The RCM wants to ensure that England’s maternity services have the right number of staff and right
resources to offer all women the safest and highest quality care.’

The statistics emerged from a 2010 document on government plans to deny foreigners with unpaid NHS bills entry to the UK.

The first comprehensive assessment of ‘health tourism’ says the true cost to taxpayers is up to 100 times bigger than some estimates.


Though the majority of NHS treatments will incur a cost for foreign visitors or short-term migrants, there are a handful of circumstances whereby they receive care for free.

According to the NHS website, these include: 

  • Emergency treatment – this may be in an accident and emergency (A&E) department, a walk-in centre or a GP surgery
  • Treatment of certain infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections
  • Compulsory psychiatric treatment
  • Treatment imposed by a court order
  • Family planning services (this does not include maternity treatment or terminations of pregnancies)

Though, officially, pregnancy or maternity treatments are not free of charge, patients who arrive in A&E who are ready to give birth must be treated.

– Daily Mail