The House of Commons debated the remaining stages of the Data Protection Bill 2017-19 on May 9. The Bill had significant implications for data-sharing between NHS Digital and the Home Office. These concerns were shared by both the Royal College of General Practitioners and the cross-party Health and Social Care Select Committee, of which I am a member.
This proposal was yet another example of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ which, I believe, is undermining patient care. You can read more about my concerns by clicking here. I supported new clause 12, tabled by the Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which sought to uphold the NHS Code of Confidentiality and would prevent personal data held by the NHS from being disclosed to the Home Office for purposes of immigration enforcement.
I am pleased that the government has now amended the data-sharing arrangements between the Home Office and the NHS. Speaking in the House of Commons, the Minister for Digital, Culture Media and Sport confirmed that data-sharing will only be used to trace an individual who is being considered for deportation action having been investigated for, or convicted of, a serious criminal offence. The Minister gave assurances that this commitment is consistent with the intention underpinning new clause 12. This is a significant win.
More widely, the government has ignored warnings that its regulations on ID checks at hospitals are damaging patient care. I believe the government must now suspend these regulations while a full review is carried out and end its ‘hostile environment’ entirely to protect the best interests of patients.