NHS Digital defies Health Committee call to stop sharing patient data with immigration enforcement.
NHS Digital has today defied the Health and Social Care Committee’s call to suspend its practice of providing patients’ addresses to the Home Office for immigration tracing purposes.
NAT (National AIDS Trust) has been campaigning for an end to this practice since it came to light in 2014.
On January 31, the Health and Social Care Committee (a cross-party group of MPs) concluded from the evidence it had heard that NHS Digital had not consulted properly before adopting this practice, and that is risked damaging trust and confidence in the health system.
The committee called for the practice to be stopped at once pending further investigation.
Today NHS Digital, supported by Ministers from Department of Health and the Home Office, have announced their intention to disregard this recommendation.
Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: “I am dismayed to learn that in spite of the Health Committee’s recommendation, NHS Digital will continue this practice.
“Patient confidentiality must be protected. We believe that sharing data with the Home Office for immigration purposes scares people away from healthcare. As well as jeopardising the lives of individuals, this endangers public health as those with infectious conditions avoid diagnosis and treatment and therefore remain contagious.
“NHS Digital ought to be a safe haven for the vast quantities of patient information it receives. None of our data is safe if NHS Digital can secretly decide to single out individuals and share their data irrespective of the high standard of confidentiality used by the rest of the NHS.
“Having been instrumental in getting the Health Select committee to investigate against this practice, we are determined to fight this shamefully irresponsible decision.”