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Data-sharing agreement between NHS and Home Office scrapped following legal challenge by Migrants Rights Network

Date of Publication: 
14 November 2018

Agreement allowing sharing of NHS data for immigration purposes will be completely withdrawn

Data-sharing agreement between NHS and Home Office scrapped following legal challenge by Migrants Rights Network

14 November 2018

Migrants Rights Network (MRN) reported on Monday that a data-sharing agreement between NHS Digital and the Home Office has been scrapped.

MRN announced last November that it was mounting a legal challenge against the agreement, as it meant the Home Office was able to seek confidential patient information via the NHS for immigration purposes.

MRN said in an email on Monday: "Under pressure to withdraw the arrangement, the Government announced in May 2018 that it would be suspended, 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 On Friday 2 November, NHS Digital confirmed the deal would be completely withdrawn."

Rita Chadha of MRN said: "We are delighted that the Government is starting to dismantle the hostile environment by conceding that deterring people from accessing health services is cruel, inhumane and ultimately more costly"

Liberty, who represented MRN in the legal challenge, said NHS Digital had confirmed to the court that the agreement will be completely withdrawn.

Lara Ten Caten, lawyer for Liberty, said: "This secret data-sharing deal undermined every principle our health service is built on, showing contempt for confidentiality and forcing people to choose between self-medicating and detention and possible deportation.

"This stand-down by the government is a huge victory for everyone who believes we should be able to access healthcare safely – and particularly for doctors and nurses who had become complicit in the Government's hostile environment against their will. This triumph shows that if we stand up to xenophobic policies, we can and will dismantle them."

A Home Office spokesperson told the Guardian: "We continue to work with NHS Digital on a new memorandum of understanding to enable us to make requests for non-medical information about those facing deportation action because they have committed serious crimes, or where information necessary to protect someone's welfare."

MRN said that it would remain ever vigilant and would continue, alongside other organisations, to monitor the situation.