Monday, May 2, 2011

The British hospital where 80 per cent of babies have foreign mothers

Just one baby in five born in one NHS ¬hospital has a British mother, new figures have revealed. Of the 3,289 children born at Ealing Hospital, West London, in the past year, a remarkable 2,655 were to foreign nationals.

The statistics – released following a Freedom of Information request by The Mail on Sunday also show that the maternity unit dealt witha total of 104 different nationalities in the 12 months to February.

These include 537 babies born to Indian mothers – the largest minority ethnic group – 389 Poles, 270 Sri Lankans, 260 Somalians, 200 Afghans and 208 Pakistanis. In contrast, of the 634 babies with British mothers, just three were from Wales and six from Scotland.

Maternity services at the hospital have been coming under increasing pressure, with a 20 per cent rise in births over the past five years, almost twice the national average.

The hospital has had to take on 32 extra ¬midwives to cope with the boom, which saw 500 more babies delivered there last year than in 2006.

A key factor is that foreign women tend to have more babies than British women – an average of 2.5 compared with 1.84 for UK nationals – and Ealing is one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs in Britain.

The figures are derived from how mothers declared their nationality on hospital paperwork, so the ¬British category also covers foreign-born mothers granted British passports and second-generation immigrants who were born British citizens.

Nationally, one baby in four is born to a foreign mother, twice the level of 1997, when Labour came to power. Conservative MP James Clappison said: ‘The Labour Government has left us with significant challenges after an unprecedented wave of inward migration.

‘The pressures, I’m sure, are being felt all over the place including in the NHS. I fully support the present Government’s proposals to cap migration.’

Despite the burgeoning birth rates, Ealing Hospital denies that its maternity services are under strain. Yet the Royal College of Midwives recently warned that maternity units across the country were ‘teetering on the brink’ under the pressure of rising birth rates. And some mothers have complained about being left alone during labour at Ealing Hospital.

Father Paul at the Polish Catholic Community Centre in the borough said he had spoken to many new mothers who were unhappy about their experience at Ealing Hospital. He said: ‘Some women say it is not very good and that the service they would receive in Poland would be better. ‘Doctors are involved much earlier in their pregnancy in Poland and the service is more complex and detailed.’

In July 2008, watchdogs at the Healthcare Commission rated Ealing Hospital’s maternity unit as one of the weakest in the country. It put the unit in the bottom fifth of hospitals for childbirth and ante-natal services, placing it in the ‘least well performing’ category.

However, the service has improved in recent years, according to the new health regulator, the Care Quality Commission. Results of its survey published in December 2010, rated Ealing’s maternity unit 7.8 out of 10, on a par with most NHS Trusts in the country.

A spokeswoman for Ealing Hospital NHS Trust said the hospital catered for a diverse borough and that it was ‘no surprise’ that a high proportion of mothers at its ¬maternity unit were from outside the UK. And she said that a team of translators were on hand to help foreign mothers.

She said: ‘As with the rest of the UK, the Trust has seen a steady increase in the birth rate during the last few years. As with other hospital Trusts that serve diverse populations, clinical staff have access to support workers and systems that aid communication with patients.

‘The maternity services at Ealing Hospital NHS Trust are not under strain and the Trust has achieved and maintains good staff-to-mother ratios in the maternity department. ‘Between 2006 and 2011, the Trust employed a further 32 midwives as a response to increased demand for maternity services and to improve staff-to-mother ratios.’


Germany braces itself for invasion of Polish workers as it follows EU immigration rules

Like 26 million other hard-working Germans, Stephan Walter feels he has done more than his bit for the cause of European integration.

An electrician aged 23, some five per cent of his €10-an-hour wage already goes on a special "solidarity tax" to fund reunification with Germany's economically backward East. And for the next four years, another chunk will help bankroll his government's generous €89 billion bail-out of Greece, its spendthrift partner on the southern side of the Eurozone.

Now, though, he is bracing himself for another serious drain on his earning power - not, this time, from "Ossies" or feckless Greeks, but from industrious, hardworking Poles.

Under European Union rules that come into force on Sunday, May 1, Germany will open its doors fully to jobseekers from Poland and other Eastern European nations for the first time, paving the way for a flood of cut-price carpenters, plumbers and other budget labour of the kind that swept Britain in 2004.

However, with German trade unions predicting that up to a million Poles may arrive in the first year alone, not everyone feels like welcoming the new arrivals from the other side of the River Oder.

"Free movement of labour is all very well," said Mr Walter, who lives in Bielefeld in North Rhine-Westphalia, once the heartland of the coal and steel plants that forged Germany's post-war recovery.

"But there is nothing in this great EU to stop us all being shafted from a tidal wave of under-cutters. We are stoking the fires of social unrest if we just allow anyone in who is able to work.

"I have just gone back to school to get more qualifications but I will be returning to work after my studies. I know all about Poles willing to do what I did for three and four euros and hour, and it won't be any different when there are thousands more from countries like Poland."

The pending influx is the result of working rights extended to citizens from the Eastern European states that joined the EU in 2004, including also the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Baltic nations.

While Britain, which was short of labour at the time, allowed such workers in straight away, Germany, France and Italy negotiated individual moratoria, citing concerns about unemployment. Now Germany's moratorium is expiring - just as the global recession and last summer's Eurozone crash mean severe cuts in health, social service and welfare budgets in Europe's biggest economy.

That has fuelled a German swing against immigration in general, and a growing sense that a people which has long supported the EU project no longer gets a fair deal.

As in Britain, the "Polnische Klempner" or Polish plumber is held up as an example of the low-wage bogeymen that Germans now fear coming to steal work from them. Industrious, helpful and willing to turn out at the kind of unsocial hours many Germans are reluctant to, they are also cheap - ready to accept hourly payment of three, four and five euros instead of the 10, 20 and 30 euros that qualified tradesmen earn.

"It is human nature to hunt bargains - I would be the same," conceded Mr Walter. "But I think this moratorium should have been in place for another five years, at least until Germany gets back on its feet. There will be too much of a temptation to go 'on the black' as they save tax and people save money."

Officially, there are more than enough jobs to go around. A relative bounce-back in the economy has pushed unemployment down to just 7.9 per cent, and already there are labour shortages within Germany's ageing population that the Poles aim to plug.

Kamil Rakoczy, an adviser on migration for Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, said there were vacancies for 36,000 engineers and 20,000 IT specialists, as well as jobs in construction, nursing and elderly care. Although the Polish economy is growing fast itself, its thriving metropolitan areas lack the capacity to absorb more people, and the average monthly corporate wage of 3,400 zlotys (£770) is still only a third of that in Germany.

"Germany survived the crisis, and the demand for labour is there," said Professor Krystyna Iglicka, a migration expert from Warsaw's Centre for International Relations. "The Germans are ageing and they need fresh blood and young and dynamic people."

Among them will be Andrzej Rokowski, 41, from the northern city of Szczecin. A cook by profession, he is prepared to turn his hand to anything to bring in money for his wife and child.

"May 1 is an important day for me," he said. "In Poland there is no chance for a man to make a living wage, as the money is just too little. In Poland I can make around £225 a month, while in Germany I can earn four times that. My family don't want to go so they will stay here, and I'll send the money home."

The Cologne Institute for Economic Research predicts a maximum of 800,000 immigrants will come to Germany in the next two years, a number that may not have that much visible impact given that some three million immigrants arrived between 1991 and 2000.

Nonethless, many Germans fear a repeat of what happened in Britain, where official predictions of no more than 40,000 newcomers proved to be well short of the estimated million that eventually came.

Annelie Buntenbach, a board member from the Confederation of German Trade Unions, recently warned that net migration to Germany from Poland and other new EU states could hit five million once all restrictions were completely lifted in coming years.

And Frank Bsirske, head of trade union Verdi, said he feared pressure on wages. "I fear a downwards spiral, in which companies which employ labour from Eastern and Central Europe push out those who pay better wages and offer more social working conditions."

Such concerns come at a sensitive moment for Mrs Merkel's ruling Christian Democratic Union coalition, which is already fraying at the edges over anxieties about immigration and the integration of Muslims into society.

The touchpaper to that debate was lit in August last year with the publication of an inflammatory - but best-selling - book by Thilo Sarrazin, a senior central bank official, claiming that Germany was being made "dumber" by Muslim immigrants who made little effort to learn German, and whose only effort to integrate was into the benefits system.

There was also rare criticism of Mrs Merkel from a senior member of her own centre-right party, Erika Steinbach, who warned that the CDU was seen as too left-wing on immigration, and that a charismatic politician could easily peel off voters to a new hard-right party.

Another renegade ex-CDU member, Rene Stadtkewitz, has already announced the creation of a right-wing Freedom Party similar to that of Geert Wilders in Holland. Success for such a party would mark a decisive break with Germany's post war-liberal consensus, in which memories of Nazism have often inhibited frank discussion on nationalist issues.

Now, stuck between hosting existing immigrants whom they feel do not work enough, and new ones whom they fear may work too hard altogether, many Germans believe the comfortable years of the post-war era are over. "What will happen when 10,000 Polish women turn up with their mops and their buckets and offer to undercut my wages?" asked Rita Seewall, 50, a domestic cleaner in Berlin.

"I do not expect loyalty from the people who pay me. They will say: 'These are the new terms Rita, take them or leave them.' Why does Germany always seem to look after others instead of taking care of its own?"


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