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.
Dating sharing by NHS Digital discouraged people from accessing vital, lifesaving care & risked public health.— Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson) May 10, 2018
Huge congratulations to Dr Sarah Wollaston MP & @NAT_AIDS_Trust for ending this.https://t.co/CJGVcizEMR pic.twitter.com/IV5IbLYynw
"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.
Delighted to hear confirmation from @margot_james_mp that the threshold for data sharing of confidential patient address data with Home Office has been restored to serious crime. Thank you to all @CommonsHealth colleagues & campaigners— Sarah Wollaston MP (@sarahwollaston) May 9, 2018
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."
1/ Incredible victory for #StopSharing today. #nhs data being shared with @ukhomeoffice will come to an end. Another really important step towards the end of the #HostileEnvironment but there are important things to remember…— DocsNotCops (@DocsNotCops) May 9, 2018
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.
"Today’s decision marks a victory for doctors, patients and everyone who has fought for access to healthcare for the most vulnerable in our society", @timdudderidge reflects on today's pledge and what it means for patients https://t.co/s2n0vT3drl #StopSharing— Doctors of the World (@DOTW_UK) May 9, 2018
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."
Gov’t suspends controversial NHS data sharing deal https://t.co/PerGy1ayJW— PharmaTimes (@PharmaTimes) May 10, 2018
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.