NHS no longer obliged to provide migrant digital records
The decision to force NHS digital to provide patient records to the Home Office came under fire from doctors, lawyers, civil liberties campaigners and members of parliament. They branded the MoU that facilitated the sharing of non-clinical patient data “inappropriate” when it was first enforced in 2017. Notably, Members of the Government Health Committee warned that addresses from patient records should only be shared in cases of serious crime whilst lambasting the NHS for signing a government data sharing agreement. This worried many, with projections of migrants being forced to use busy out of hours surgeries and casting doubts on the abilities of the NHS to protect the data and immigration status of potentially vulnerable users.
However, on 9th May, the government digital officer announced that the agreement would be revisited following the recent scandal involving the Windrush Generation, which led to the departure of Amber Rudd from the Home Office and the appointing of Sajid Javid as the new home secretary. Press and social media coverage of the events surrounding the Windrush Generation have shone public light onto the ongoing “hostile environment” policy that the government is implementing, bringing it into the public eye in an unprecedented manner.
The MoU came into force in January 2017 and over the course of this time, the NHS has been obliged to provide the Home Office with what is called non-clinical patient data. This could include last known addresses or whether a service user is registered with a GP. From the beginning the BMA criticised this measure, with one spokesperson branding the measure as being at odds with a doctor’s primary role of promoting their patients’ wellbeing. These measures have now been “suspended with immediate effect”.
Following these recent events and the outpouring of public support for Windrush NHS users, it is clear that this government now has the interests of these well respected members of our community at heart and is doing all it can to represent their needs within policy. We look forward to seeing how they intend to make the system of accessing necessities for migrants, such as healthcare, easier and yet more compassionate and are very glad that the doctors involved are being allowed to do their jobs as physicians, rather than occupy the role of immigration officials.