Government will halt NHS datasharing with Home Office except for serious crime

Published 9th May 2018

A statement from our President, Dr Tim Dudderidge

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.

The government has declared that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which requires the NHS to share patient records with the Home Office for the purposes of immigration enforcement, will be amended. Requests for patient information will now only be approved in much more limited circumstances, primarily in cases involving ‘serious criminality’.

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. The news that it will be suspended means that Doctors of the World (DOTW) UK patients, many of whom are survivors of torture or trafficking, will no longer have to suffer the indignity of going without healthcare out of fear that their records will be shared with the Home Office.

We know that confidentiality and doctor-patient trust is at the core of our NHS. That’s why today’s news, which means that NHS doctors can get on with doing what they do best – looking after the health of everybody in our community- is something to celebrate.

However, there is work still to be done and fine-print to be checked.

My colleagues and I eagerly await the text of the updated MoU so that we can clarify a number of crucial points.

To name a few, we will seek to ensure that the government’s definition of ‘serious criminality’ aligns with that of the General Medical Council. Furthermore, the parties to the agreement need to be clear in what form data-sharing will continue; who it will affect and how they will be identified.

We express our gratitude to the Health Select Committee, and in particular to Dr Sarah Wollaston, for taking on this issue, as well as to all those who campaigned with us. #StopSharing

See today’s coverage from the Guardian and the BBC.