Saturday, 7 May 2011

80% of children born in London hospital born to foreign nationals


Walk into Ealing Hospital and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a foreign land. Looking around the maternity unit, the vast majority of mothers with newborns are from abroad. Most are Indian or Polish.

One woman who recently gave birth at the hospital told me: ‘I was practically the only British woman there. Some of the others didn’t speak a word of English.’

Hardly surprising, given that last week new figures revealed that 80 per cent of the children born at the West London hospital over the previous year were to foreign nationals.

Of the 3,289 children delivered, an extraordinary 2,655 babies were born to non-British mothers. The statistics also showed that the maternity unit last year dealt with women from a total of 104 different nationalities — an astounding figure. As a result, a team of translators, funded by the taxpayer, has to be on hand around the clock.

The children born to foreign women include 537 babies by Indian mothers — the largest minority ethnic group — 389 Poles, 270 Sri Lankans, 260 Somalis, 200 Afghans and 208 Pakistanis.

In contrast, there were 634 babies with British mothers, including just three from Wales and six from Scotland.

Maternity services at the hospital are under increasing pressure, with a 20 per cent rise in births over the past five years, almost twice the national average — partly due to the fact that foreign-born women generally have more children than their British counterparts. As a result, the hospital has had to take on 32 extra midwives to cope with the boom.

The revelations have inevitably sparked criticism of Britain’s immigration policies, and renewed concern that the NHS is being overwhelmed by an influx of foreign mothers keen to take advantage of free healthcare.

A Daily Mail investigation reveals that births to mothers born outside the UK last year rose to the highest figure since records began in 1969.

They accounted for nearly a quarter — 24.7 per cent — of all live births in 2009. This has increased since 2008, when it was 24.1 per cent.

In 2009, there were 174,174 live births in England and Wales to mothers born outside the UK, compared with 170,834 in 2008.

This means that nationally, one baby in four is born in the UK to a foreign mother — twice the level of 1997, when New Labour came to power. In 1990, it was just under 12 per cent.

The latest Office for National Statistics figures show that in 2009, the three countries which produced the highest number of births here to mothers from outside the UK were Pakistan, Poland and India.

Of the local authorities in England, the London borough of Newham recorded the highest percentage of births to mothers born outside the UK in 2009, at 75.7 per cent. Outside London, Slough — which has seen a considerable influx from Eastern Europe — leads the field, with 57 per cent of births to foreign mothers, followed closely by Luton, which has a large Asian population.

Areas such as Peterborough, too, have seen a huge increase in births from Eastern Europeans. There were just three such babies born there in 2000, but almost 200 in 2006.

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