Thank you for your email regarding data protection in the NHS.
I understand the concerns you raise. The NHS has to help the most vulnerable in society regardless of their background and the confidentiality between doctor and patient is a bond of trust which shouldn’t be easily broken. However, the rights of the individual have to be balanced against the needs of society.
The Data Protection Bill will create new rights for patients to protect their data and the NHS will ensure these reforms are introduced effectively. However, these new freedoms can’t and shouldn’t be open to abuse. That’s why the NHS has a duty to co-operate with other public agencies to enforce the law. Under the new legislation, this duty will be strengthened by the introduction of an immigration exemption for specific data protection rules so day-to-day operations to tackle illegal immigration aren’t obstructed unnecessarily. Illegal immigration does much to undermine the security of the nation and encourage the exploitation of the weak and it therefore has to be dealt with appropriately.
That being said, this immigration exemption will be restrained and limited in its scope. The Home Office will only be able to invoke the exemption when their request for data clearly relates to immigration control. It will also only apply to specific data protection rights, not all of them. I’m also reassured by the fact that this will be a pause rather than a permanent exemption to allow the Home Office time to find a missing individual.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
With best wishes.