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NHS Digital to end data sharing with the Home Office on immigration offences

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

NHS Digital to end data sharing with the Home Office on immigration offences

Government agrees to implement the principle of Dr Sarah Wollaston’s amendment to Data Protection Bill

In today’s debate on the Data Protection Bill [Lords], the Government accepted the principle of an amendment tabled by Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee. This amendment restricted the occasions when NHS Digital can share data relating to criminal investigations to serious offences only. This means that NHS Digital can no longer share data with the Home Office on migrants being investigated for immigration offences. This data sharing of migrants’ patient information has been going on for many years and was most recently formalised in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NHS Digital, the Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care. NAT had, along with Doctors of the World (UK), led a campaign to end the practice since it came to light in 2014. Most recently the Health and Social Care Committee published a report strongly criticising the MoU and the immigration tracing service, demanding that it end immediately.

It will be very important that the definition of 'serious offences' in any new MoU is consistent with guidance from the General Medical Council.

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: “We are delighted that at last this shameful sharing of confidential patient information with the Home Office is to end. Not only did it breach every bit of guidance on confidentiality within the NHS, it also deterred people from essential healthcare putting both individual and public health at risk.

“NAT has been working on this since 2014 and we would like to thank the many prestigious organisations and individuals from across the health sector who have joined us in campaigning for this data sharing to stop. We especially want to thank the Health and Social Care Committee for their inquiry and report and the Chair, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, for tabling the successful Amendment. We now call on NHS Digital to amend the MoU immediately so that it is fully in line with Dr Wollaston's amendment – the view of Government and Parliament is clear. We want our confidential health service back.”

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