A migrant charity has today launched a legal challenge against the sharing of NHS data with the Home Office for immigration enforcement purposes.
In January, NHS Digital signed a Memorandum of Understanding to give the Home Office access to patients' personal information. A report from the Guardian suggested that some 8,000 records had been handed over to the Home office prior to this.
The Migrants' Rights Network says the agreement violates patient confidentiality and discriminates against non-British patients.
"We are gravely concerned that immigration enforcement is creeping into our public services, especially the NHS," director of the Migrant Rights' Network, Fizza Qureshi, said.
"Health professionals should not be forced to act as immigration officers, or to breach patient confidentiality. We want the NHS to live up to its founding principles, to be a place of help and support for those who need it regardless of their immigration status."
The charity is being represented by the human rights organisation Liberty in its challenge.
Lara ten Caten, a lawyer for Liberty, said:
"We are proud to be representing Migrants' Rights Network in their challenge to this toxic data-sharing arrangement. It undermines every principle our health service is built on – it is discriminatory, shows contempt for patient confidentiality and privacy, and is putting lives at risk.
"This case is an important step forward in the fight to dismantle this Government's 'hostile environment' regime, which has seen the tentacles of immigration enforcement reach into our schools and hospitals, turned trusted public servants into border guards, and spread racial profiling, suspicion and fear into every corner of society."
This comes in the same week that Politics.co.uk revealed that the Home Office has also been given access to child maintenance records.
The Migrant Rights' Network is now calling on the public to support the challenge via it's crowdfunding site CrowdJustice.