back to article Activists launch legal challenge against NHS patient data-sharing deal

A civil rights group has launched a legal challenge in the UK against a deal that asks the NHS to share patient data for immigration enforcement. The agreement allows the Home Office to ask the NHS to hand over non-clinical information on patients – like date of birth or last known address – for immigration offences, such as …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry but if you are illegally in the country and using resources you are not entitled to then the government has the right to know about you and deal with you accordingly.

    Have you ever noticed that when someone uses "but" before a statement it means they don't give any sentiment to the preceding statement.

    I am all for legal immigration and there is no but.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      If the legendarily inept Home Office need to know about illegal immigration, they could perhaps control one of the world's easiest borders to control a little better than turn the NHS into big brother. They'll probably screw up and get the wrong people anyway.

      Doctors are going start asking about sexual orientation even though it's got nothing to do with your visit next year. Where do you draw the line?

      1. whileI'mhere

        "they could perhaps control one of the world's easiest borders to control a little better than turn the NHS into big brother. "

        Which prompts a thought. If the NHS is now to act as a de facto border force, perhaps the real Border Force could start doing health screenings at passport control? This could catch on. Let's get the MOD to run whatever DEFRA is called these days and let the farming and food lobby play with the ships, planes and tanks.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      down votes grind my goat when you don't explain why you disagree.

      If you have an issue with what I say and can articulate why then please do so.

      I am more than happy to question my own opinion and have done so on numerous occasions.

      If you don't have the ability to debate then I suggest you step away from the computer.

      1. The_Idiot

        As requested

        "if you are illegally in the country and using resources you are not entitled to then the government has the right to know about you and deal with you accordingly"

        The point, however, would appear to be whether they have the right to breach UK law (Data Protection legislation). Or, and I do not suggest this is in fact your position, is it your view that anyone in the country illegally is outside the protection of law? To raise an (I hope) obviously exaggerated example, would it be OK for a government officer to shoot such a person and not be prosecuted for murder?

        To my understanding, the case has not yet been heard. But if (and I stress, IF) a properly found court of law found the action to be unlawful, would you still say it is the government's right to carry out the action?

      2. handleoclast Silver badge

        @downvoted AC

        The reason I downvoted you is because you ignored what was stated in the article. Or maybe you just didn't understand it. So I'll clarify it for you.

        If an illegal immigrant catches some highly infectious, serious disease, do you want that person to see a doctor and be cured (or perhaps quarantined) or do you want that person wandering around spreading the disease because that person is scared a doctor would pass details to law enforcement?

        It's a simple question. I invite you to ponder it for a while before responding. You may find it useful to read this first (she wasn't an illegal immigrant but did try to evade law enforcement).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re downvote

        @ac

        You’ve articulated your view no better than this ac comment is!!

        Downvoted as your talking nonsense plus as a bonus hiding your views behind AC.

        These are people in medical need they should not have to fear seeking treatment when they need it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re downvote

          Thank you, you all make some good points about how we should be a tolerant society however now can you explain who is going to pay for this treatment that you would freely give to people that have broken the law by moving into a country they are not entitled to live even though there is due process for people to claim asylum where it is genuinely needed and said people are not just moving due to economic reasons?

          I also ask where should you draw the line because if you don't then you end up with a third world country because you can't afford to sustain yourselves.

          Legal immigration for people that want to integrate and become part of our society is absolutely fine but people that try to game the system and take what they want for free are not.

          1. 's water music Silver badge

            Re: Re downvote

            ...however now can you explain who is going to pay for this treatment that you would freely give to people that have broken the law by moving into a country they are not entitled to live even though there is due process for people to claim asylum where it is genuinely needed and said people are not just moving due to economic reasons?

            The cost is socialised through taxation silly, just as it is for you and me or anyone else without reference to any moral judgments you or I might make about them. Some of that tax income is generated by economic activity of illegal immigrants. Given that younger working age adults are over-represented amongst illegal immigrants (high economic activity/low health care costs) I wouldn;t be surprised if there wasn't a surplus.

            I also ask where should you draw the line because if you don't then you end up with a third world country because you can't afford to sustain yourselves.

            Probably at some point before we become what I guess you mean when you say 'third world country'. I think we are a long way from being a country that isn't lucky enough to be able to afford to provide universal healthcare

            Legal immigration for people that want to integrate and become part of our society is absolutely fine but people that try to game the system and take what they want for free are not.

            I don't think anyone here has argued against immigration controls or enforcement, just against mixing it up with healthcare provision. Knowing a little of how the home office administers asylum claims in practice, not to mention their general reputation for competence in any area, my default position would be to side with almost any immigrant or asylum seeker until given a reason not to.

            There is a certain logical consistency in your position if we assume a certain level of justice and efficiency in the causes, processes and history of migration or we simply ignore it and consider a narrow legal question without any context but but I am not sure that the first can be justified and in the second case a simple counter argument of confidentiality and data protection can be mounted.

            TL/DR I think we should provide free-at-the-point-of-delivery universal healthcare because we can

          2. Dan 55 Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: Re downvote

            You will end up with a third world country if you don't have a health service anyone can trust and use.

            Tuberculosis is back. Will turning the NHS into another arm of the Border Force meaning that some sick people don't go to seek medical help they need help eradicate it?

            I think you know the answer to that one.

          3. The_Idiot

            Re: Re downvote

            With respect, and in the context of my reply, 'where do you draw the line' is simple (at least for me).

            You draw the line the same place for the government as you draw it for anyone else. At the point they are found to have broken the law.

            Whether or not the law as established is 'to expensive to maintain', or leads to actions 'to expensive to tolerate' is not a consideration once it is on the statute books. It's the law, and breaking it should not, in my view, be permitted for the government just as it is not permitted for anyone else. In fact, I'd suggest it is even _more_ important for the government not to break the law.

            If a properly found court finds the government is in breach of legislation, then the government should stop. It should also (as a principle) be punished in some way - sadly most if not all financial remedies actually cost the taxpayer and the government can not, in practice, be sent to serve some manner of custody.

            At least, that's my view. But then, I'm an Idiot... (blush)

            1. 's water music Silver badge

              Re: Re downvote

              With respect, and in the context of my reply, 'where do you draw the line' is simple (at least for me).

              You draw the line the same place for the government as you draw it for anyone else. At the point they are found to have broken the law.

              I (and I suspect many or even all in this thread) do not dispute the legitimacy of law enforcement. The issue is with getting medical establishments to do it (a dangerous boundary blur whether or not you agree with the specific example) and the consequential effect of denial of access to healthcare which I regard as morally a bad thing but is also functionally a bad thing WRT to infectious diseases.

              It's the law, and breaking it should not, in my view, be permitted for the government just as it is not permitted for anyone else. In fact, I'd suggest it is even _more_ important for the government not to break the law.

              No disagreement here but since we are discussing individuals breaking the law I am not sure why you are emphasising it. In either case (govt or individual) I don't want medical staff taking on the enforcement though*.

              1. The_Idiot

                Re: Re downvote

                @'s water music

                "...since we are discussing individuals breaking the law I am not sure why you are emphasising it."

                Well, and with respect, from tho original Register posting:

                "A civil rights group has launched a legal challenge in the UK against a deal that asks the NHS to share patient data for immigration enforcement.

                The agreement allows the Home Office to ask the NHS to hand over non-clinical information on patients – like date of birth or last known address – for immigration offences, such as outstaying their time limit in the UK.

                ...

                The Migrants Rights Network (MRN) has today launched a legal challenge against the government, saying that the deal "violates patient confidentiality and puts all migrants at risk".

                I would therefore suggest (not, if I may, 'contend' - I don't consider this a competition), that we are not, or at least, I am not, discussing 'individuals breaking the law' but rather 'the government breaking the law' as that is the basis of the legal challenge referenced in the posting itself.

                Whether others choose to debate 'individuals breaking the law' or not is, of course, their prerogative, but I would still hold the view that the reason I'm 'stressing' government breach of law and whether it is acceptable is because that was the subject of the posting (blush).

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Re downvote

                  Were going round and round in circles here.

                  I see this in a simple way.

                  Should the government be able to identify people that are here illegally when they access public services they haven't paid for? (in no way do I suggest they don't get access)

                  If you say "no" then you are advocating a free for all system where anyone can use these resources with impunity.

                  I understand the argument that by doing this you may discourage people from using these services because they are here illegally but again where do you draw the line?

                  I also mentioned a caveat and that applies to people that have been exploited and again there must be systems in place to help them.

                  What we do from here is anyone's guess, I would suggest the government will pass a law to allow them to continue. In fact it's on the BBC that the courts are now required to pass this information on, now that is something I really disagree with because stating someones ethnicity at the start of a trial to the court is a road we really don't want to go down.

                  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

                    Re: Re downvote

                    If you say "no" then you are advocating a free for all system where anyone can use these resources with impunity.

                    Yay for strawman.

                    I can see the replies you wanted so much were a monumental waste of time.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: Re downvote

                      Not at all, I can see the other side of the argument and what I am asking is not a straw man argument.

                      It's a very simple case of what do you do about people accessing public services (in this case healthcare) when they are not entitled to it?

                      So please feel free to answer that question because regardless of the legality of what the government is doing it ultimately falls back to that, the legality side will be determined by the court and whether the government legislates an alternative. If you can answer that question I'm all ears but I can't see how you can without advocating a free for all. Please enlighten me.

                      1. Blotto Bronze badge
                        WTF?

                        Re: Re downvote

                        It's a very simple case of what do you do about people accessing public services (in this case healthcare) when they are not entitled to it?

                        how do you define entitlement and why is it ok for other tourists to be entitled to use other services like police, military forces, fire service, local and national government, subsidised public transport, national regulators, education system and other services our taxes pay for that we don't even think about that all goes to defining our society (for better or worse). Its not always apparent how tax funded public services are used by tourists but for example pretty much every uk tax payer has interacted with the state education system at some point, tourists can't get here without interacting with someone along their journey who's doing their role because of the state education system.

                        Should we tax people at the border a fee to cover their contributions?

                        What about those who have or will receive more in benefits than they have or will contribute via taxes, are they just as entitled as those that pay taxes on earnings or profit or taxes on spending money by illegal emigrants earning illegally but not claiming benefits?

                    2. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: Re downvote

                      "I can see the replies you wanted so much were a monumental waste of time."

                      Let me elaborate on my "Not at all" response.

                      I find your comments to be insightful and useful in respect of learning (we have discussed a few articles over time) so I'll give you the reasoning of my request.

                      Over the last few years I have noticed that logic has started to go out the window, it feels to me that people are putting themselves into left/right without thinking to themselves why they have the viewpoint they do. I'm not left or right in the sense that the media portrays these days. The left seem to be of the viewpoint that everyone should be respected regardless of their viewpoint and regardless of whether what they are championing is right and proper, the right on the other hand see the left as bad and want everyone to have their viewpoint which is to be against everyone else regardless. It's a bit like a club but with racism. The comments made on this and my own comments have been an attempt to understand why people are happy for a public service to be abused because at the end of the day that is ultimately what it is.

                      Where this is going to end I have no idea but there is a storm coming where people will use every argument trick in the book to sway peoples opinions, I hope that the human race won't fall for it because as long as there are people that question you, eventually they will understand and make their own informed opinion which is always better than being told what to think. It's called escaping the echo chamber. Have a look at some other comment threads, it's interesting to see how some of the first comments shape the rest of the thread. There's probably some psychobabble term for that as well.

                      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

                        Re: Re downvote

                        So, some opinion seems to be that these people arer here illegally, so they shouldn't be able to use public services. Well there's a certain logic in that, but in real terms, is it such a big problem ? Put another way, do the savings by "catching" these people outweigh the negatives - like making us look like selfish b***ards, cauing people to not get treatment for infectious illnesses, etc, etc, ...

                        Try this analogy ...

                        You are in charge of a shop, and you know that there is a certain level of shoplifting (aka theft). The people taking your stock are not entitled to it, and you are entitled to stop them. So far, so good. There's one way to significantly reduce the problem - you simply search every person leaving the door and check that they've a receipt for everything they have. Do you really want to trample over the civil liberties and privacy of all your honest customers to do that ? Or would you accept that a shop doing that would suffer some fairly significant downsides to doing that ?

                        Personally, I'm on the side of thinking that it's worth the marginal increase in cost to avoid the downsides of screwing with things like patient confidentiality.

                        1. Anonymous Coward
                          Anonymous Coward

                          Re: Re downvote

                          It's a good point and without the numbers involved it's just speculation for all of us.

                          As with your analogy if it's a couple of people and not much value then so be it but if it's a lot of people then would you still allow it?

                          I don't see where patient confidentiality comes into it though because you are not giving any details about medical conditions just that they have sought treatment, it is then up to whoever to confirm if they are entitled to it.

                          Maybe this isn't about migrants at all and the government just wants us all to be divisive while they get away with murder. Maybe my opinion comes from the negative press I've seen but then I also know some very intelligent articulate migrants who I would like in this country more than some of idiots I have known. Who knows?

                          I could also attribute it to a conspiracy theory of mine that this push of the "left" and all the stories that do the rounds are actually designed to push people to the right ready for a war. Remember it's just a theory, I don't actually believe it but it is a possibility.

          4. strum Silver badge

            Re: Re downvote

            > can you explain who is going to pay for this treatment

            We all are - because we aren't all selfish bastards.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Re downvote

              It's not a case of being selfish, not once did I say we shouldn't treat people.

              The NHS is struggling to cope due to mismanagement by the government, the use of PPI's/Agency staff etc... etc...

              Why should people be able to come to the country work without paying tax (that's the definition of an illegal immigrant because they don't have a national insurance number so they can't even if they wanted to) and then use the resources that country provides for it's citizens. You tell me what is fair about that? by that token we might as well just open the NHS up for everyone, need an op just pop over we don't mind paying for it because were not selfish.

              This ideal world where everyone gets along and everything is fair will only come about when everyone thinks like that, until then and as harsh as it sounds rules must be followed so if you want treatment then afterwards you will have to explain why you are here illegally.

              1. The_Idiot

                Re: Re downvote

                Again, and with genuine and sincere respect, the original article wasn't about 'fairness'.

                It was about a legal challenge.

                So, putting 'fairness' aside (as, some may feel, the law may do or have to do), are you (the AC who asked for reasoned responses to his or her view) willing to concede that if the government is found to have acted unlawfully, then they should cease to do so? Whether or not that results in actions or costs said AC finds 'unfair'?

                Or is it said AC's view that the government should in fact be permitted to break the law where they (or indeed the AC in question) feel that acting _within_ the law is somehow 'unfair'?

                Or (and I'll wait for the clamor of 'yes' responses (blush)) should I just shut the heck up because the discussion has wandered way past the original point and is in some other place I've clearly missed (blushes again)?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Re downvote

                  Ok so going back to the article I don't think it unreasonable for someone to supply their NI number/proof of residency at point of treatment. If you can't supply an NI number/proof of residency or it doesn't check out then pass the information on as requested.

                  If what they are currently doing is found to be unlawful then by all means stop and legislate correctly but we can't just do nothing.

                  At then end of the day it is not unrealistic or unreasonable to check someone is entitled to public services when they access them and how can you claim civil rights in a society you have chosen not to join? There are going to be some caveats to this and we should have robust procedures to protect those people.

                  This has all been caused by successive governments not pulling their finger out and addressing the issues. I'm not just talking about the border I'm also talking about how we as a country have not done enough abroad to help developing nations other than being general warmongers with America.

                  1. The_Idiot

                    Re: Re downvote

                    Again, and again with respect, the original article wasn;t about 'reasonable' or about 'fairness' - it was about a legal challenge.

                    If the challenge is successful, if the government is found to have acted illegally, do you support or reject the view that THEY SHOULD BLOODY WELL STOP DOING IT?

              2. Dan 55 Silver badge

                Re: Re downvote

                as harsh as it sounds rules must be followed so if you want treatment then afterwards you will have to explain why you are here illegally.

                They won't go for treatment, they'll just become a health hazard for everyone else. How does instigating a policy which could endanger other people's health even make sense?

                And as for following rules, it seems the government isn't.

      4. Adam 52 Silver badge

        "If you have an issue with what I say and can articulate why then please do so."

        A civilised society looks after it's sick. It doesn't treat people differently on the basis of skin colour, national origin or religion. And it doesn't deny healthcare to those it considers criminals.

        That's the simple version. The complex version adds a whole load of stuff about confidentiality, centuries of patient/doctor privilege, common law and politicians sacrificing public health to grub votes from a bunch of racists.

      5. wayward4now
        Linux

        I won't waste my time replying to an "Anonymous Coward".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @wayward4now

          Well done, I hope you have a lovely evening. You do realise that by replying you are actually doing the one thing you have said you are not going to do.

    3. IRONYMAN

      So what are my rights?

      I am a UK citizen and as such am also an EU citizen at present too. I pay my taxes to the government and am registered across all of those government databases that matter HMRC, NHS, Criminal Records and all ad infinitum..........my taxation is used to provide all of those nice services that myself and other citizens of the UK and EU also have access to.

      So why should my taxes be used to pay for someone who will not allow their personal data to be stored, accessed and shared in the same way that mine is?.......the arguments that illegal immigrants are paying their taxes indirectly is nonsense also as without a legal status, you do not have an NI number and can only work illegally.....doing who knows what?

      I have the greatest sympathy for any individual escaping war or persecution and asking for asylum on entry to the UK......my problem is that so many travel across the entire continent of Europe to reach the UK and too many are not seeking refuge or asylum, just a better life without the duties or commitments to society that citizens endure.

    4. strum Silver badge

      >Sorry

      You aren't remotely sorry.

  2. Peter Prof Fox

    I bet the MoU doesn't...

    Give any details of the process of dealing with mis-matching one Jim Egrant with another real person or James Igrant. So the opportunities for mistaken identity rocket. The answer preferred by the civil servants is no doubt to go on a fishing expedition with absolutely no safeguards whatsoever. When these departments can't manage their own data, can't fix their own mistakes and can't use the data they do have for reasons of poor quality and Byzantine systems, adding another alligator to the pool only makes sense to those who haven't got a clue about the purpose and responsibilities of data collection.

  3. Adam 52 Silver badge

    Memo

    For those interested: http://www.statewatch.org/news/2017/jan/uk-home-office-nhs-digital-data-sharing-memo.pdf

  4. Roopee
    Big Brother

    Sounds fair to me

    I am all for immigration enforcement using whatever data is available to identify and locate immigrants who have out-stayed their welcome. However I also agree that the Home Office should be controlling our borders properly. We're an island and there's no excuse for not 'counting them all in and counting them all out again'. Google gives away excellent facial recognition software in Picasa, so how come border control doesn't have even better software, given the government's resources?

  5. Suburban Inmate
    Big Brother

    Illegal use of NHS is negligible.

    Frankly, if someone needs emergency care then just bloody treat them and be done with it, like we already do.

    For non-emergency stuff, why not simply furnish hospitals with a list of people eligible to go on their books, to be checked internally? No surveillance potential, of course, nor can anything even be gleaned from such a list as it covers everyone, everywhere. Also good for citizens and visitors on their own insurance. Exceptions can be handled as and when, as appropriate.

    With info being sent to the regime* how long before they're catching Murderers? Fraudsters? Non-violent x/y/z-phobic gobshites? Ganja growers? People with unauthorised opinions? This is a one-way street no matter how slow we're going on any given day.

    If this was really about money they'd simply enforce existing tax law and close loopholes. But turkeys, Christmas, etc.

    * /reɪˈʒiːm/ noun

    1. a government, especially an authoritarian one.

    1. Halfmad

      Re: Illegal use of NHS is negligible.

      What do you do with people out of area who aren't on the hospital books but have been referred to them from other hospitals because they don't have the facilities locally to treat them? This is incredibly common and one of the reasons the NHS has national systems.

      You're idea looks great on paper right up until you actually know something about how the NHS works. There are centres of excellence around the country who specialise in specific types of treatment. You'll even see patients referred cross-border if there's a need into NHS Scotland and NHS Wales.

      1. Suburban Inmate

        Re: Illegal use of NHS is negligible.

        With respect, I think you may have misinterpreted my comment. It was about keeping data internal to the UK health system, centres of excellence included, rather than leaking it to other regime departments.

  6. Blotto Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    This is very bad

    There’s lots of things our tax’s pay for whether we individually agree with them or not.

    The whole point if the NHS is to treat patients for free at the time of need. The nhs should be focused on treating the patients in need full stop. Perhaps we should be helping the home nations of the health tourists to have a better health system to stop people traveling here in the first place.

    I’d rather they sort out their procurement issues and stop paying over the odds for stuff like £16 for gloves that can be bought for 35p or stupid PFI contracts charging huge sums for basics instead of being an extension of the border control or immigration service.

    Our data should not be used in this way.

    There will be lots of false positives and also intentional spotty data recording in areas of high immigration.

    The government should find another way of dealing with this. Perhaps scrap the f35 program or trident, or introduce proper incentives for all departments to stop wasting our tax contributions.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    FAIL

    "We are the Home Office. We are s**t at our job, so please do it for us."

    And let's not forget the fun to be had when someone mistakes "Buttle" for "Tuttle." (or is it vise versa?)

    The truth is there are many ways that illegal immigrants could be detected by the Home Office which are under it's direct, or indirect control.

    But that would require senior managers to get their f**king fingers out and make their systems work better and talk to each other.

    It might also mean taking the view that if they pay taxes and don't get arrested their immigration status is not that important.

    IOW it's not the NHS's job. Which it isn't.

  8. Winkypop Silver badge
    Joke

    Doctors WITH borders

    Puts a new slant on it.

    Nurse!

    Let out the dogs!!

  9. Bogle
    Big Brother

    crowdjustice

    The general direction of the comments make it fairly clear that most everyone in here understand what a bad idea this is. Now I intend to put my money where my mouth is and I'd encourage others to be generous, too: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stopnhsdatasharing/

  10. Cucumber C Face
    IT Angle

    Illegal immigrants still pay taxes

    They will be paying indirect taxation (VAT, fuel duty etc.) which is where much of the tax paid by low income people comes from anyway.

  11. Jtom Bronze badge

    When the entire population of a large continent, or at least all who are sick, illegally enter your country and demand access to free healthcare, then maybe some of you will see the error of your thinking.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Why stop at the entire continent? If we're going for stupid arguments, let's do it properly and have the local galactic supercluster.

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      When the entire population of a large continent, or at least all who are sick, illegally enter your country ...

      You do realise that almost "the entire population" of our nearest continent are entitled to enter the UK legally ? Once further afield than that, then I suspect the numbers are actually not that high that it's worth the damage that this idea will do.

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