back to article Govt 'comprehensively ignored' advice over NHS data-sharing deal

NHS Digital must put an immediate stop to patient data-sharing deal with the UK Home Office for immigration enforcement, MPs have said. The deal, which was put on official footing last year, allows the Home Office to ask the National Health Service for non-clinical information – such as date of birth or last known address – …

  1. Adam 52 Silver badge

    If the GMC thinks that the scheme is wrong, why doesn't it take any action against those the GMC regulates sharing their patients' sensitive data with it?

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      GMC regulates health professionals

      I believe that the GMC regulates individual doctors (maybe other health professionals too?).

      If those doctors record confidential patient data into a system then they cannot be held responsible by the GMC for it being shared in bulk at an organisational IT level.

      If it was left on an unencrypted USB stick or paper file by an individual doctor then GMC (and probably others) would have cause for complaint against them.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: GMC regulates health professionals

        "If those doctors record confidential patient data into a system then they cannot be held responsible by the GMC for it being shared in bulk at an organisational IT level."

        Absolutely they can. Any Data Controller who uploads sensitive data into any system is responsible for having adequate contractual clauses in place to protect that data.

        If doctors don't have those clauses in place with the NHS then they shouldn't be uploading data.

        Otherwise doctors could upload sensitive data to Facebook, and then claim innocence when Facebook share it with the world.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: GMC regulates health professionals

          Any Data Controller who uploads sensitive data into any system is responsible for having adequate contractual clauses in place to protect that data.

          This presupposes that the individual doctors are data controllers in a Data Protection (or soon GDPR) context. They are not; the data controller is the person responsible for controlling the data in the system, not the person responsible for collecting it. In this situation, this would be a nominated person in the organisation that holds the data, almost certainly a civil servant in a governmental department somewhere, well outside the jurisdiction of the professional body that governs the medical profession.

          1. Adam 52 Silver badge

            Re: GMC regulates health professionals

            The BMA disagrees with you:

            "GP practices are data controllers for the information they hold about their patients. Most practices will have 'data processing' arrangements with third parties, for example IT system suppliers carry out a wide range of clinical and administrative processes within the practice, but it is the data controller who retains responsibility for compliance under the Act."

            1. Adam 52 Silver badge

              Re: GMC regulates health professionals

              And also NHS England:

              "GPs or GP Practices are “data controllers” and have a legal duty to ensure all processing of personal data of their registered patients complies with all eight data protection principles of the Data Protection Act, Failure to do so carries significant risks.

              "A data controller may assign some or all of the responsibility for data processing to another person, but their overall legal responsibility cannot be delegated or contracted out."

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Most of the data was slurped along time ago, I would imagine. There's not much the GPs can do about it retrospectively.

      NHS data is a murky business. GPs are mostly private contractors, hospitals are mostly private trusts, other service providers are increasingly commercial organisations and the government just provides the money. Exactly what lawful business any of these have exchanging data on patients isn't immediately clear to me since there is seemingly no informed consent involved.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    NHS Digital confirmed it had received the letter and would “consider it carefully and will respond fully in due course”.

    When you're told "immediately" "in due course" means "Now; right now".

    1. Zippy's Sausage Factory

      In government speak, though, "in due course" tends to mean "whenever we feel like, and no sooner", unfortunately...

  3. James 51 Silver badge
    Pirate

    If there isn't an exemption written into the new data protection laws which are comming, then they'd all be guilty of various crimes.

    1. Halcin

      Re: Guilt

      then they'd all be guilty of various crimes

      No, because "civil servants" make sure they are immune to the consequences of their actions. So any new legislation will have op-out clauses.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "If there isn't an exemption written into the new data protection laws"

      It's being argued about. The ICO wasn't happy with the first draft. We shall see.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free

    Heaven forbid that people might actually have to have a right to be in the uk and paid for the healthcare before they are treated. Nowhere else on the planet hands out free healthcare regardless, I live in Europe and the first thing they ask for is your insurance details. No insurance, better get your chequebook out.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Free

      When my knee was in more pieces than recommended in Switzerland a couple of years ago they didn't ask for insurance details. They were more concerned with asking me if I wanted interim pain relief.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Free

        Out of interest, is the number of pieces recommended in swizerland different to the number of pieces recommended in the UK?

        When my sister snapped a ligament in her knee in france, the french doctors were adamant that she needed very expensive surgery (on her health insurance, as she lives in france) before she would ever walk again. Not entirely trusting their (essentially working for comission) doctors, she flew back to the UK and got a second opinion. The NHS told her she would be fine with physio as long as she didnt try any extreme sports.

        She went with the NHS recommendation, and has been fine since.

        1. Korev Silver badge

          Re: Free

          The damage was so great that even a novice radiography would be able to spot it. Being a scientist turned geek I naturally researched what they did and it appears I received the current "gold standard" treatment.

          I know someone who did what sounds like your sister's injury (ACL?) who was told to wait and felt it set her sports back and she almost evangelises ACL reconstruction.

        2. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Free

          > the french doctors were adamant that she needed very expensive surgery

          > The NHS told her she would be fine with physio as long as she didnt try any extreme sports.

          Sound's like to me the French doctor's beginning position was to restore the knee back to full (or as near as possible) functionality so the patient would not be limited in their future endeavors. Getting it back into mint condition so it can be used just like a new one.

          The NHS' beginning position was that they were happy recommending limiting the patients future endeavors and fixing it just enough to get you home.

          I know which one I think has the patients best interests in mind.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Free

      You do not want someone suffering from Bird Flu Version 2, SARS Version 2, or Ebola to avoid seeking medical help because they believe their name and address will be passed on to the immigration authorities. That way lies uncontrollable epidemics. It's bad enough already with treatment-resistant TB and STDs.

      There are also quite a few women who would not want anyone to know they had sought medical advice. Plenty of women with unclear immigration status comes from cultures where taking charge of their own reproductive health is an offence that comes with severe punishments - and that includes women from Northern Ireland seeking abortions. Information sharing increases the risk of such information getting to places it shouldn't and endangering lives.

      Patient-Doctor confidentiality is important, and any attempt to dilute it should be viewed with great suspicion.

      1. Mongrel

        Re: Free

        <q>You do not want someone suffering from Bird Flu Version 2, SARS Version 2, or Ebola to avoid seeking medical help because they believe their name and address will be passed on to the immigration authorities. That way lies uncontrollable epidemics. It's bad enough already with treatment-resistant TB and STDs.</q>

        Not forgetting management of many chronic illnesses. A regular appointment with the nurse and a repeat prescription for an inhaler for asthma has to go a long way before it costs close to a single 999 call and an ambulance to the A&E.

      2. The Nazz Silver badge

        Re: Free

        re AC

        Do you really think that uncontolled, uncontrollable immigration (that horse bolted years ago) will not actually lead to epidemics and issues that you speak of, that it will only improve general health or reduce endangerment to lives?

        Personally, i'd far rather such immigrants, bringing serious medical issues with them, went through the correct immigration procedures. Hell, they may even be treated, for free, even if they're refused immigration.

        If a Govt is not allowed to enforce it's own regulations they why not simply scrap them?

        Moot point anyway, just give it time.

        1. John Latham

          Re: Free

          This data sharing won't reduce illegal immigration, it'll just worsen the health of illegal immigrants.

          Which from a Daily Mail perspective is a win-win. If there was no illegal immigration they'd have one fewer trope to stoke the passions of the morons who consume their dismal output.

          1. 's water music Silver badge

            Re: Free

            This data sharing won't reduce illegal immigration, it'll just worsen the health of illegal immigrants.

            And even if it did help with immigration enforcement the harm from diluting doctor/patient confidentiality is too great. The Nazz poses a false dichotomy in any case. Stopping NHS data sharing with the HO doesn't preclude immigration enforcement (whatever ones opinion on the appropriate level for this), it merely blocks one (possible) intelligence source

          2. Adam 52 Silver badge

            Re: Free

            "worsen the health of illegal immigrants."

            Disease (mostly) doesn't respect national or Daily Mail prejudices, so it will worsen the health of everyone.

            c.f. government abolishing the absolute privacy in sexual health clinics and the rise in gonorrea.

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Free

          Do you really think that uncontolled, uncontrollable immigration (that horse bolted years ago)

          Put down your tabloid newspaper and go and look outside. Look at how we are not being overrun by "evil forriners" coming over here to simultaneously take our jobs, our benefits, our health care, our women, our food, water, the very air we breathe...

        3. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Free

          "If a Govt is not allowed to enforce it's own regulations they why not simply scrap them?"

          Which bit of the government? This is a case where the Home Office comes up against the NHS.

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Free

      I guess you've never heard of EHIC then?

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Free

        "I guess you've never heard of EHIC then?"

        Not entirely sure of the point being made here, but I suspect it's missing some of the subtleties of the EHIC. It isn't a EEA wide NHS.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Free

          The EHIC is for visitors of up to three months, you get the treatment at the same cost as residents of that country. If you're living there it doesn't apply.

          By the way, if you look at the guide you can find quite a lot is free in many countries. Saying "nowhere else hands out free healthcare" is not quite true.

    4. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Free

      Blah, was surfing in Portugal a few years ago, mate wiped out and copped a fin strike, needed stitching. Walked into the local hospital in Lagos, and the doc stitched him up and gave him a prescription and didn't ask for any money, or our EHIC cards, or anything.

  5. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Alert

    I am shocked!!!

    The government ignoring legal advice to further their political agenda? What is the world coming to? I must have a little lie down somewhere, and take some herbal tea to soothe my shattered nerves!!

    </sarcasm>

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Dog bites man?

    Government ignores experts - not news.

    Government acts based on expert advice - now that would be news.

    1. eldakka Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Dog bites man?

      > Government acts based on expert advice - now that would be news.

      The Government often acts on experts advice.

      Of course, the way they choose which experts to provide advice is by first finding those experts who already agree with the governments position before appointment.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm no fan of data slurping

    But also, NHS Digital are as backward as they come.

  8. Jove Bronze badge

    Ridiculous arguments - any source of data must be used to protect the UK and enforce it's laws.

  9. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    nhs digital will carry on regardless, they're run by an arse covering ex home office civil servant.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do these MPs know that they can actually create laws to regulate things? Maybe do that rather whinging at executive departments.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The NHS is broken

    If it were a business it would have gone bust long ago. At its best it's great and we all hope that when we need it we're not the one on a stretcher waiting 12 hours without food or drink before being seen but I recently missed the "treatment for cancer patients 31 day target".

    The only fix anyone has is more government money (government money is your taxes, do I see you voting to pay more?).

    NHS employs approx 1.5 million (including administrators and other non-medical staff) about one in 20 of the working population. Immigration in recent years has been running at about 300,000. That's a city the size of Sheffield every 2 years with 2 major hospitals, 100+ GP practises, approx 300 GPs. Have we built new hospital capacity at that rate? Have we been increasing the number of GPs at that rate? (Indications seem to be that the total number of GPs is falling year on year).

    Much is made of the fact that some immigrants are doctors and nurses. To maintain the ratios one out of every 40 immigrants must fill a job in the NHS (inc. non-medical) - is that the case? Is approx one out of every 250 immigrants a doctor? Is a further one out of 80 a nurse?

    The NHS could make checks on entitlement to free care but prefer to treat all-comers including EU health tourists - get it free in NHS rather than pay elsewhere in EU because the UK government will pick up the tab. The medical community protest that it would mean more admin & bureaucracy for them and it's "not their job to police immigration policy".

    Despite alerting the hospital that our injured visitor was not British or EU and needed an interpreter the hospital made no steps to charge. The resulting growing waiting lists upset the electorate so we'll pressure the government to stump up still more... My proposal: For every £1 an NHS trust recovers from an unentitled foreigner Government allocates them an additional £10.

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: The NHS is broken

      > If it were a business it would have gone bust long ago.

      Well, since it's not a business, and your starting position seems to be contrasting it with one, there's no point in reading further, is there?

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