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RCGP raises concerns over Home Office access to patient data

The RCGP has written to NHS Digital to express concern over the decision to continue sharing patient data with the Home Office.

The Government, which has renewed a memorandum of understanding enabling the data sharing, said last week that patients should have ‘a reasonable expectation’ that their non-clinical data is shared between departments.

But the RCGP argued that there was no reason for the Home Office to have direct access to patient records, which can be obtained ‘via court order’.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard wrote: ‘We recognise that the information shared as a result of the MOU is considered to be non-clinical, but any information, even names and addresses, are given by patients in good faith and with the understanding that this remains confidential.

She said GPs ‘have a duty to deliver care to patients, regardless of their individual circumstances’ which is ‘provided on the mutual understanding that the information our patients share with us remains confidential’.

‘This principle is fundamental to the trust which exists between doctors and patients. Any process that undermines this trust will both deteriorate the doctor-patient relationship, and deter vulnerable people from seeking medical assistance when they need it,’ the letter said.

Raising public health concerns, Professor Stokes-Lampard added that it was ‘crucial that vulnerable patients do not stop presenting to their GP fearing the consequence of immigration enforcement’.

The Health Select Committee had asked for data sharing to be stopped whilst it conducted a full review into the ‘public interest test for such requests’.