07:55 GMT26 February 2021
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    A controversial deal sharing immigrant's confidential NHS records between Britain's Home Office and Department of Health has been suspended.

    The deal which fell in line with the former Home Secretary's "hostile environment" for immigrants, has been shelved following "serious concerns" raised by a committee of MPs. Immigration officials will no longer have the power to check NHS records of people the Home Office wished to deport.

    A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the government departments meant the NHS had to reveal names and addresses of people the Home Office suspected of being in the country illegally. 

    "Serious concerns" over patient confidentiality had been raised by the Health and Social Care Committee which reviewed the understanding made between the two government departments.

    The suspension of the data deal follows an amendment to the Data Protection Bill put down by Dr Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Commons health select committee.

    Digital Minister Margot James told MPs that the government had reflected on the concerns raised "and as a result, and with immediate effect, the data-sharing arrangements between the Home Office and the NHS have been amended."

    "Hostile Environment"

    In a statement published on Pharma Times, Dr Tim Dudderidge, president of Doctors of the World, said the decision was a "victory for doctors, patients and everyone who has fought for access to healthcare for the most vulnerable in our society."

    "The MoU made many patients too frightened to see a doctor. Within a health service founded upon the principle of putting patients first, the deal compromised patient confidentiality without the knowledge or consent of its doctors," Dr. Dudderidge added.

    READ MORE: Britain's Windrush Deportation Crisis Exposes 'Racist' Home Office — Witness

    Questions have been raised why the NHS fell under the remit of Theresa May's "hostile environment" for immigrants in the first place, involving doctors in the potential deportation of their patients.

    BuzzFeed news reported that between 2010 and 2014, confidential patient records were accessed 6.900 times. In 2016 that figure shot up to 8,100 in just 11 months.

    Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs told Pharma Times is was a "victory for common sense."

    "We are extremely pleased and relieved that the Government has suspended the data-sharing agreement that has been in place with NHS Digital — it is a huge victory for common sense, for civil rights and for high-quality patient care."

    ​Immigration staff will only be able to ask for data to trace people in danger of being deported if they've committed a serious crime. 

    READ MORE: UK Hostile Environment Policy — A Strategy to 'Alienate the Vulnerable'


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    patients' personal data, confidential information, patient data, patients, doctors, UK Home Office, National Health Service (NHS), Theresa May, Great Britain
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