A deal allowing the Home Office to request patient data from the NHS to target people for deportation has been scrapped following a legal challenge by SRT grantee Liberty and others.
The memorandum of understanding between the Department of Health, NHS Digital and the Home Office was created in November 2016, and gave the Home Office access to confidential patient information to aid immigration enforcement. It allowed the Home Office to request access to certain non-clinical information including patients’ last known address. It was drawn up in secret, without consulting NHS staff, medical organisations or the public, but was raised in January 2017 by former head of NHS Digital, Kingsley Manning.
Migrants’ Rights Network, represented by Liberty and Matrix Chambers, took legal action against the arrangement on the grounds that it violated patient confidentiality, discriminated against non-British patients and left seriously unwell people fearful of seeking medical care. Under the pressure of the legal challenge, the government announced in May 2018 that the arrangement would be suspended, and would only apply to people who had committed serious crimes.
On Friday 2nd November, NHS Digital confirmed to the court that it will completely withdraw the data-sharing deal made between itself, the Department of Health and the Home Office.
Lara ten Caten, lawyer for Liberty, said: ‘This secret data-sharing deal undermined every principle our health service is built on, showing contempt for confidentiality and forcing people to choose between self-medicating and detention and possible deportation. This stand-down by the government is a huge victory for everyone who believes we should be able to access healthcare safely – and particularly for doctors and nurses who had become complicit in the Government’s hostile environment against their will. This triumph shows that if we stand up to xenophobic policies, we can and will dismantle them.’
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