A GRIEVING couple had their baby’s body withheld from them by a hospital because they could not pay their £10,000 bill for treatment.
Bosses took the action because the parents were from overseas and did not have a valid European Health Insurance Card, a doctor revealed.
The mother was rushed to hospital after she began bleeding while she was eight months pregnant. She was given an emergency Caesarean but the baby could not be saved.
Health secretary Matt Hancock promised to investigate after Joe Rylands revealed the incident at an unnamed hospital on BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.
The trainee GP has been working in hospitals across northern England for the past six years.
‘When you’ve lost a baby, or if it’s a miscarriage, the NHS can make up a bassinet with the body in so parents can take it home and have a funeral,’ Mr Rylands said.
‘That can be a really important process in grieving and recovery — and this couple were not allowed to have the body because they hadn’t paid the bill.’
Mr Hancock said he would look into the details of the case but admitted: ‘From what I’ve been told that shouldn’t have happened.’
He said NHS rules make clear that maternity care should be free for mums from overseas who did not intend to give birth here.
‘We must treat people with humanity and respect and the idea that the body wasn’t released because of this is completely wrong,’ Mr Hancock added.
He defended charges for patients from overseas, which he said brought in £1.3billion for the NHS.
‘Everybody resident in this country pays for the NHS through taxes,’ he said. ‘When people come from overseas, it’s perfectly reasonable and right that they make their contributions.’
The Royal College of Midwives said all maternity care for overseas patients should be exempt from charges.
It called for the fees to be suspended until a review has been carried out. Pregnant visitors ‘frightened that they may not be able to pay’ might risk their health by avoiding hospital, it said.