A CHARITY is seeking a judicial review of a secret data-sharing deal between the government and the NHS to assist immigration enforcement.
NHS Digital and the Department of Health signed a “memorandum of understanding” in January to give the Home Office access to patients’ personal information in cases where it believes someone is in Britain without permission.
The Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN) says this violates patients’ privacy and puts all migrants at risk.
The charity argues the plans also discriminate against non-British patients and could make seriously ill people afraid to seek medical care, with children, pregnant women, disabled people and victims of trafficking and abuse being particularly vulnerable.
MRN director Fizza Qureshi said: “Health professionals should not have to be forced to act as immigration officers or to have to breach patient confidentiality.
“We want the NHS to live up to its founding principles, to be a place of help and support for those who need it, regardless of their immigration status.”
Lara ten Caten, a lawyer with Liberty, which is representing the MRN in the legal challenge, said: “This case is an important step forward in the fight to dismantle this government’s ‘hostile environment’ regime, which has seen the tentacles of immigration enforcement reach into our schools and hospitals, turned trusted public servants into border guards and spread racial profiling, suspicion and fear into every corner of society.”
Dr Jessica Potter of the Medact refugee solidarity group warned that the plans undermined the Hippocratic oath.
The MRN is appealing for donations to help cover its legal costs. A fundraising page can be found at crowdjustice.com/case/stopnhsdatasharing.