Health Committee calls for NHS Digital to suspend immigration tracing and respect patient confidentiality - NAT comment
The Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, wrote today to the Chief Executive of NHS Digital calling for a suspension to the practice of providing addresses of migrants to the immigration authorities.
NAT (National AIDS Trust) has been campaigning for an end to this practice since it came to light in 2014.
The practice breaches fundamental principles of medical confidentiality which allow disclosure to the authorities only in relation to serious crimes against the person. Furthermore, migrant advocates say that this tracing service deters many people from accessing the healthcare they need, and so results in loss of life or serious harms to health.
By sharing patient data in this way, NHS Digital is operating to a different and lower standard of confidentiality from the rest of the health service. Faced with that inconsistency, the Department of Health proposes to reduce data protections for all patients in the NHS.This is an issue relevant to everyone in England who wants to continue to trust their doctors with their personal information.
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT, said: "NHS Digital is meant to be the trusted safe haven for patient information. Sadly it has proven to be nothing of the kind and has been far too eager to breach our confidentiality. Scaring people away from healthcare has grave consequences for the individual and, in cases involving infectious disease, can endanger public health. The bar must not be lowered on the high standard of confidentiality our health service implements and relies on. We call on NHS Digital to immediately heed the call from the Chair of the Health Committee, end its damaging immigration tracing service and take steps to restore public trust in its work."
Evidence provided by NAT and others to the Health Committee can be found here.