Responding to the letter from Sarah Wollaston, Health Select Committee chair, to NHS Digital demanding the end to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between NHS Digital, the Home Office and the Department of Health, that allows for the sharing of patients’ addresses for immigration tracing purposes, Dr John Chisholm, BMA ethics committee chair, said:
“The BMA has raised serious concerns over the MoU since its introduction1. We are delighted to see Sarah Wollaston’s intervention and strongly back her calls for NHS Digital to immediately cease use of the MoU and carry out a thorough review of how it discloses NHS data.
“We know this agreement is already having a real effect on patients – and in turn their relationship with doctors. That relationship is built on a foundation of trust, and the arrangement between NHS Digital, the Home Office and the Department of Health is eroding this.
“If patients are refusing to visit the doctor for fear of repercussions from the Home Office, it is not only a danger to that individual’s health, but it could also pose a threat to the wider wellbeing of the public if communicable infectious diseases are being diagnosed and treated at a later stage.
“One major area of concern for us is that such an agreement sets a precedent for lowering the threshold at which health providers must hand identifiable information over to authorities, potentially leaving all patients unsure about whether the information their doctor holds on them is truly confidential. These disclosures to the Home Office are well below the threshold for disclosing confidential information in the public interest, set for doctors by their regulator the General Medical Council.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.
- To read the BMA’s submission to the Health Select Committee’s inquiry into MoU click here