In the media today there is widespread coverage of the concession on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NHS Digital and the Home Office.
MoU on NHS Data Sharing
The Guardian characterises the changes as a “Government U-turn” on a key element of the Home Office’s "hostile environment” approach to immigration. Labour MP Dr Paul Williams, who helped table the amendment, is quoted as saying “NHS information should only be shared in the event of a conviction or an investigation for a serious crime, not to aid to create a hostile environment where people are afraid to go to their GPs”.
The Times describes the move as a “rethink” on part of its compliant environment approach, while the Telegraph reports that the shift comes after the Windrush scandal and criticism of the Government’s immigration policy.
The Independent describes it as a “climbdown” but says campaigners are still concerned that the Government has been “worryingly vague” about the precise changes. Corey Stoughton, the advocacy director at Liberty, is quoted saying a “cast-iron commitment” was needed to ensure that people will no longer have to fear immigration enforcement when seeking urgent medical care.
The Mail meanwhile reports that illegal immigrants could escape detection following the move. It says “crucially” the previous rules did not request details of medical conditions or any treatment received.
In response to the MoU concession, a Home Office spokesperson said:
"After careful consideration of the concerns raised by the Health and Social Care Select Committee, the circumstances in which the Home Office will request data from the NHS has changed with immediate effect.
"The changes mean that data will be requested to locate foreign national offenders we intend to deport who have been given a prison sentence of 12 months or more and others who present a risk to the public.
"We remain committed to tackling illegal immigration and will continue to trace immigration offenders using a range of different investigative measures.”