Is personal data of those seeking access to NHS services shared with immigration enforcement authorities.

Updated 20 October 2021: The Information Commissioners Office has commented recently about The Data Sharing Code of Practice, which is a statutory code made under section 121 of the Data Protection Act 2018 that was first published by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in December 2020 and came into force on 5 October 2021 saying that “data sharing must engender trust in how personal data is used in order to drive innovation, economic growth and the delivery of more efficient and targeted services.

In the ICO’s view, data sharing will be central to the United Kingdom’s recovery from the covid-19 pandemic.”

Status Now notes that the absence of firewall between health and immigration data and the Government’s drive to implement its ‘status checking’ project undermines any potential for engendering trust.

Updated 15 October 2021: Plans to Hand Over NHS Data to Police Sparks Warning From Government Adviser

Plans to force the NHS to share confidential data with police forces across England are “very problematic” and could see patients giving false information to doctors, the government’s data watchdog has warned. In her first national interview, the data guardian for England told The Independent she has serious concerns over Home Office plans to impose a responsibility on the NHS to share patient data with police which she said “sets aside” the duty of confidentiality for clinicians. Dr Nicola Byrne also warned that emergency powers brought in to allow the sharing of data to help tackle the spread of Covid-19 could not run on indefinitely after they were extended to March 2022.

Dr Byrne, 46, who has had a 20-year career in mental health, also warned against the lack of regulation over the way companies were collecting, storing and sharing patient data via health apps. She told The Independent she had raised concerns with the government over clauses in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which is going through the House of Lords later this month. The legislation could impose a duty on NHS bodies to disclose private patient data to police to prevent serious violence and crucially sets aside a duty of confidentiality on clinicians collecting information when providing care. Dr Byrne said doing so could “erode trust and confidence, and deter people from sharing information and even from presenting for clinical care”. She added that it was not clear what exact information would be covered by the bill: “The case isn’t made as to why that is necessary. These things need to be debated openly and in public.” Opinion polls commissioned by the data guardian since 2018 have shown a high level of concern by the public about their health data falling into the wrong hands.

Read more: Shaun Lintern, Independent,

Updated 26 May 2021: Pulse: New GP data extraction ‘far exceeds’ plans, warn privacy campaigners

New automatic extractions of data from GP-held patient records, due to come into force in early summer, are ‘far bigger’ and ‘more intrusive’ than, GP privacy campaigners have warned.

NHS Digital announced earlier this month that it will be rolling out a ‘new  and improved’ GP data collection system from 1 July called General Practice Data for Planning and Research (GPDPR), with patients wanting to opt out having to do so by 23 June.

NHS Digital said the collected data will be used ‘for better planning of healthcare services and for use in medical research’ and that the new system will be ‘more efficient’ at doing this than the current General Practice Extraction Service  (GPES) process.

However, privacy campaigners have warned that the amount of information going to be extracted from patient records from July ‘far exceeds’ that done under previous schemes, adding GPs have not been given enough time to inform patients about these changes.

GPs don’t have to contact patients but will need to update their privacy notice, for example on their website, NHS Digital has said, adding they may also wish to include information about the change on social media, newsletters and other communications.

Read more here:

15 February 2021: Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 15th February 2021.

Claudia Webbe Labour, Leicester East: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the personal data of those seeking access to NHS services is shared with immigration enforcement authorities.

Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care): National Health Service trusts may contact the Home Office in relation to overseas visitors who are presenting or have presented for NHS secondary care treatment for the following two purposes:

– To complete an immigration status check through the Home Office Evidence and Enquiry service, where the trust is unable to establish this by any other means and this information is relevant to establishing a person’s entitlement to free secondary care; and

– To notify the Home Office of individuals subject to immigration control with debts of £500 or more that have been outstanding for two or more months. In doing so they must follow strict processes, set out in the Department of Health and Social Care’s guidance.

See also: 8 February 2021: StatusNow4All statement: Everyone should have access to the vaccine but this reported Vaccine ‘Amnesty’ Declaration is a Trap and Won’t Work

The direction of travel on the part of the UK government regarding tracking and tracing people is investigated here: Privacy International’s recent report has profound implications for any strategies that rely on firewalls between e.g. health and immigration systems.  This research is clear: in the UK, private companies are heavily and extensively involved in plans for the convergence of Facial DNA and fingerprint data into a single biometric platform and a ‘status checking project’.

The only sincere public health approach is that which gives Indefinite Leave to Remain now to everyone in the UK who does not currently have it.  For this reason, the Status Now Network wholeheartedly endorses  EDM #1442: Undocumented migrants and covid-19 vaccination – Status Now 4 All. 

8 February 2021 : EDM#1442: Undocumented migrants and covid-19 vaccination

3 February 2021: : THE UK’S PRIVATISED MIGRATION SURVEILLANCE REGIME: A rough guide for civil society