A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was agreed between the Home Office, Department of Health and NHS Digital who collect and publish data. This allowed the Home Office to request confidential patient information via the NHS for immigration purposes.
Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) represented by Liberty brought a legal challenge arguing that the data-sharing arrangement:
- violated patients' right to privacy under the Human Rights Act;
- couldn’t pass the considerable public interest test required to breach the doctor-patient relationship;
- left migrants too scared to access healthcare services they are entitled to, for fear their address and other personal information may be passed onto the Home Office;
- discriminated against non-British patients.
Following the announcement of the legal challenge, the Government announced in May 2018 that the data-sharing deal would be suspended – but remain in place- and would only apply to people who had committed serious crimes. The legal challenge was placed on hold pending amendments to the deal.
On Friday 2 November, NHS Digital confirmed that it would completely withdraw from the agreement. The result is that the MoU cannot work without NHS Digital as they were the ones providing the data to the Home Office which means that the MoU is no longer operative.
The government have said they will consult as to whether it is in the public interest to have a new MoU.
Mind welcomes the withdrawal of NHS digital from the agreement. It is very important that people are able to access the care that they need when they need it without fear.