Yesterday, the House of Commons Health Select Committee published its report on the Home Office - NHS Digital Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which sees data sharing for the purposes of tracing immigration offenders.

The report outlines the Committee’s concerns around:

  • the agreements incompatibility with obligations of confidentiality;
  • risks this type of data sharing will become the norm;
  • the wider effect on public confidence on data use by the NHS; and
  • the risk to public health should people stop seeking medical treatment.

In January, the Committee wrote to NHS Digital requesting it to suspend its involvement in the MoU and undertake a further review of the consequences and implications.  In February, Ministers in the Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care and NHS Digital rejected the request to suspend the MoU. Read our previous update here. This led the Committee to undertake further evidence in March.

The Committee has repeated its recommendation that NHS Digital should suspend its participation in the MoU until the current review of the NHS Code of Confidentiality is complete. NHS Digital’s decision should also take full account of the outcome of Public Health England’s review of the impact of the MoU on health-seeking behaviours.

Read our guest blog by John Chisolm, chair of the BMA medical ethics committee, which explains the BMA's views on the Memorandum of Understanding.