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Heavily pregnant British woman told to prove she's from the UK to get NHS treatment - after taking Polish husband's surname

A heavily pregnant British woman who was told to prove she is from the UK to receive free NHS treatment says she was targeted because of her Polish surname.

Emma Szewczak-Harris was sent a letter from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge saying she failed to provide proof of residence at an appointment.

The 26-year-old, who is eight months pregnant, said it was a “disgrace” that she was sent the letter accusing her of not producing the documentation, claiming she had never been asked for it in the first place, the Cambridge News reported .

“I’ve absolutely no idea why I received it other than my surname,” said Mrs Szewczak-Harris, whose Polish husband works for Cambridge University on the Addenbrooke’s site.

“As I'm pregnant, I'm going to the hospital a lot at the moment, but no one has at any point asked for my credentials which - as a born and bred Brit - are completely sound.

“So I'm stumped and angry that women in my condition, who are anxious enough as it is, should be made to worry about their access to care.”

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The letter dated October 12 from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is headed “failure to provide proof of identification and residence”.

It says: “You recently attended an appointment at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and did not bring with you the required documents that would enable us to properly assess whether you are eligible for free NHS treatment, in line with Department of Health regulations.”

The letter goes on to say she must provide the relevant documents by October 30.

“After 26 years of living in the country and using the NHS, I've never had my identity policed until now,” said Mrs Szewczak-Harris, who took her husband’s surname after getting married.

“Am I going to go into labour and then be denied treatment?”

A spokesman for Addenbrooke’s said the letter was part of a pilot scheme to stop overseas patients getting certain types of free healthcare on the NHS and that non-emergency maternity patients were asked in appointment letters to bring the proof of residence.

Mrs Szewczak-Harris said: “I went through everything and there’s nowhere in my letters saying I should bring documentation.”

According to campaign group Docs Not Cops, from Monday October 23, all NHS trusts in England will be forced to check the residency and immigration status of patients and demand upfront payment for care from those who can not prove their eligibility.

Addenbrooke’s is one of 20 hospitals that have piloted the scheme over the past year.

A spokeswoman for Docs Not Cops said: "Emma's experience serves to highlight the fact that the introduction of immigration checks has made racial profiling an NHS policy.”

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A Cambridge University Hospitals spokesman said: “The Department of Health has asked the trust to pilot a scheme to allow us to better monitor and collect payment from overseas patients who are not eligible for free NHS treatment.

"This brings us into line with national NHS guidelines and how many other trusts operate.

“From August 1, 2017 all non-emergency patients in maternity and urology have been asked in their appointment letters to provide two forms of identification when they attend - one to prove identity and one as proof of residence. Once you have provided this information you will not be asked again.

“If a patient is not eligible for free NHS care, they will be charged for any treatment we give to them and, from October 23, there is a statutory requirement to withhold treatment where clinical staff assess if this routine aspect of their care can wait until they return to their home country.”

Mrs Szewczak-Harris said she was not going to reply to the letter.

“What are they going to do? I’m entitled to that,” she said.

“My husband is very angry about it. He has faced this kind of thing before but as someone who works in medicine on the Addenbrooke’s site, he’s horrified about it. This makes us feel like second-class citizens.”

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not reflect those of BlackSeer.com. BlackSeer.com accepts no responsibility legal or otherwise for their accuracy of content. Please report any inappropriate content to us, and we will evaluate it as a matter of priority.
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