NHS DIGITAL has been told to put an "immediate stop" to the sharing of confidential patient data with the Home Office.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, the chair of the House of Commons health select committee, has penned a letter to NHS Digital calling for an immediate halt to data-sharing deal, which sees the confidential details of more than 8,000 patients shared each year.
Under the deal, the Home Office can request non-clinical patient information, such as date of birth, last known address or details of their GP, for suspected immigration offences.
In the letter, addressed chief executive of NHS Digital Sarah Wilkinson, Wollaston calls on NHS Digital to "immediately withdraw" the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that underwrites the deal, slamming it for carrying out an "inadequate consultation" on the plan to share patient data with the Home Office.
"This lack of consultation has resulted in a situation where data-sharing is taking place in a manner which is incompatible both with the guidance on confidentiality given by the GMC and the NHS Code of Confidentiality," she said. "We find that situation unacceptable."
She also slams NHS Digital for failing to "appropriately consider the ethical implications of their decision", adding: "The purpose of tracing these individuals is not to provide these individuals with medical assistance but to take enforcement action, presumably leading to deportation, and it seems to us to be misleading to include this point."
Wollaston also noted that the NHS had "comprehensively ignored" an earlier warning from Public Health England, who said that the data-sharing deal "could present a serious risk to public health."
"We now expect NHS Digital to take this opportunity to demonstrate that it takes its duties in respect of confidentiality seriously," Wollaston concluded.
"If it does not, we will expect to hold a further evidence session, where you will be required to provide a very much more convincing case for the continued operation of this MoU than has been presented so far."
In a statement given to Sky News, NHS Digital said: "We can confirm we have received a letter from the chair of the Health Select Committee. We will consider it carefully and will respond fully in due course." µ
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