A pregnant woman was denied treatment unless she can prove she is British after taking her Polish husband’s name.
Emma Szewczak-Harris who got a letter from Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridgeshire, saying she failed to provide proof of residence at an appointment claims she was targeted because of her Polish surname.
The expectant mother, who is eight months pregnant, said the incident left her feeling like a ‘second class citizen’.
She added that 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.
‘I’ve absolutely no idea why I received it other than my surname,’ said the 26-year-old from Chesterton, 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.’
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 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.’Let's