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Observations Body Politic

Hard labour

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 22 September 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3880
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

    Maternity services have come under increasing pressure, especially with rising numbers of young immigrants, but what is the government doing about it?

    This year a record number of 220 000 immigrants are likely to become British citizens. The government believes that immigration provides economic benefits; and the home secretary, Alan Johnson, told a House of Commons committee last month that the prospect of a population of 70 million “did not keep him awake at night.” Others may disagree, but this is not the place to argue the point.

    What is unarguable is that if immigration is government policy it is the job of all Whitehall departments to plan on that basis. Immigrants tend to be energetic and young and are likely to have children. So it doesn’t take a genius to work out that a liberal immigration policy needs to be backed up by investment in maternity services, schools, and housing. Otherwise the economy gets the benefit, while public services pay the price. It is hypocritical to hymn the benefits of immigration without recognising that it also imposes some obligations.

    The newly naturalised British are one reason—but not the only one—why maternity services are …

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