The government has reversed a key element of its ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy. During a parliamentary debate on the data protection bill it was announced that the government has decided to suspend with immediate effect the memorandum of understating (MOU) between the NHS and the Home Office, which saw 3,000 patients’ details shared with the Home Office last year.
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 allowed for patients’ details, which had been provided confidentially to the NHS, to be used to help trace immigration offenders. It led to the signing of the MOU between the Home Office, NHS Digital and the Department of Health.
The decision comes after MPs, doctors and health charities warned the practice was preventing some patients from seeking care for medical problems out of fear of detention or deportation. Critics warned that passing patients’ details on to the Home Office risked turning the NHS into de facto immigration officers and damaged patients’ trust in the NHS. The British Medical Association had warned that the MOU fell “short of the well-established ethical, professional and legal standards for confidentiality”.
In the future, Home Office immigration staff will only be able to use the data-sharing mechanism to trace people who are being considered for deportation due to having committed a serious crime or who are deemed to present a risk to the public.
Gherson has over 30 years of experience in assisting with UK immigration matters. Should you wish to speak to a member of our team, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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