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Last Updated: Monday, 26 March 2007, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Immigrant pregnancies stretch NHS
By Angus Stickler
BBC News

Pregnancy scan
Demand for services is soaring
The BBC has been told the influx of eastern Europeans to the UK has led to a massive rise in pregnancies and abortion requests in some areas.

Health professionals warn that some antenatal services are stretched to breaking point.

More than 500,000 eastern Europeans have migrated to the UK following the accession of eight new member states to the EU in 2004.

The impact on services appears to be far greater outside major cities.

The number of cases that we have at the moment is more or less double what we would expect for our practice population
Dr Nina Pearson
GP, Luton

Doctors say the new arrivals are largely young, fit and fertile: the number of pregnant women has doubled; one in four women asking for an abortion is eastern European.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said it believes there has been an increase in the number of eastern European women seeking abortions across the UK.

It said the NHS and government ministers need to apply resources to meet population needs.

Increased demand

In one GP practice in Luton in Bedfordshire, 400 new patients register every month - and 80% are eastern European.

Dr Nina Pearson specialises in women's health at the Lea Vale Medical Group, near Luton town centre.

She said services for pregnant women were stretched to the limit.

"The number of cases that we have at the moment is more or less double what we would expect for our practice population.

"It's having an enormous impact on the workload for the midwives - and then of course there's the post natal work, and the baby checks, babies that are needing immunisations.

"It's an area of work that we are struggling to keep up with at the moment."

They have to get used to designing the health care service and applying resources according to the population needs
Anne Furedi
British Pregnancy Advisory Service

An increase in pregnancies has led to a corresponding increase in abortion.

One in four women seeking a termination through the Lea Vale Medical Group is now Eastern European.

And these figures are backed - at least anecdotally - by other health service providers.

Lisa Cunnigham, manager of the BPAS in Luton, said her centre dealt with 663 abortions last year.

"We have noticed an increase with the Eastern European clients.

"Some women have said to me that they would want to continue with the pregnancy, but they haven't been in this country for very long, and they are not entitled to the benefits.

"If they were entitled to that then they would continue with the pregnancy. It's sad that that is a big factor."

There is no basic state help - even child benefit - for unemployed migrant workers from these countries until they've worked in the UK for at least a year.

Tailored services

Department of Health statistics give no breakdown for the number of abortions relating to foreign nationals resident in the UK.

But BPAS is responsible for a quarter of all abortions that take place in England and Wales.

Anne Furedi, the chief executive, said: "We are seeing an increase in the number of the eastern European women across the board.

"It's a huge challenge for the NHS - it's a huge challenge for government ministers.

"They have to get used to designing the health care service and applying resources according to the population needs.

"We are having to cope with an ageing population - if we are seeing an increase in the number of young fertile men and women then we're really going to need to address that too."




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