THE UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is demanding £3,000 from a Zimbabwean mother after she gave birth at Norwich University Hospital in 2013.
34-year-old Caroline Nyadzayo’s unpaid bill is part of the £62million cost of ‘health tourism’ to Britain which has become key campaign issue along with immigration ahead of the country’s May elections.
The Harare-based advertising executive was pictured with UK health minister Daniel Poulter on his visit to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital when the maternity suite was reopened.
Nyadzayo, who gave birth at the Norfolk hospital in December 2013, told The Sunday Times it was ‘unfair’ she was still being pursued, because the baby’s father is British.
She said: “I understand that the NHS is looking after the interests of its citizens such as healthcare … and ensuring that foreigners who are not entitled to it do not use it.
“I know the system may believe I travelled [to Britain] to abuse the NHS benefits, but as a matter of fact I just wanted to have my first baby as a family and surely everyone is entitled to that.”
The couple were questioned about the birth when they entered Britain at Norwich Airport in October 2013.
However, they were released when they agreed they would be paying for it.
Nyadzayo said: “I had my visa cancelled and (was) held by immigration for about five hours.
“I was told because I was 31 weeks pregnant it was likely I was going to use the NHS to my advantage.
“We said we would pay for the birth. But we had no idea how much we’d be charged.”
Her case was profiled as figures suggested hospitals’ failure to claw back the cost of treating Europeans is costing taxpayers millions of pounds a week.
The department of health said visiting foreigners could use the NHS as long as they can pay for it.
“We want international visitors to feel welcome to use the NHS provided they pay for it – just as families in the UK do through their taxes,” an official said.