The Commons health select committee has written to the head of NHS digital urging it to stop sharing patient data with the Home Office for immigration reasons.
In January last year, NHS Digital signed a 'memorandum of understanding' to give the Home Office access to patients' personal information.
Earlier this month, the select committee heard evidence from health professionals and migrant groups about the impact the policy was having on vulnerable people. This included details of a woman who had died after being too afraid to seek medical advice about a persistent cough.
Politics.co.uk has previously reported on how access to healthcare has been significantly affected by Theresa May's desire to create a 'hostile environment'.
Chair of the committee, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, has now written to the chief executive of NHS Digital asking for them to withdraw from the memorandum of understanding and to stop sharing data with the Home Office while a full review is carried out.
The letter raises issues regarding a lack of proper consultation, compatibility with confidentiality guidelines and whether it is in the public interest to maintain a confidential medical service. It concludes:
"We now expect NHS Digital to take this opportunity to demonstrate that it takes its duties in respect of confidentiality seriously by listening to the concerns raised about the MoU and taking action accordingly. If it does not, we will expect to hold a further evidence session, where you will be required to provide a very much more convincing case for the continued operation of this MoU than has been presented so far."
Taking to Twitter, Wollaston said:
"NHS Digital must immediately stop sharing patients’ addresses with the Home Office for immigration tracing. Deeply concerning that they ever chose to do so… Unacceptable disregard for serious unintended consequences."
A government spokesperson said:
"Non-clinical information is shared on occasion between health agencies and the Home Office to locate individuals suspected of committing immigration offences – this data is strictly controlled and only shared if there is a legal basis to do so.
"The memorandum of understanding simply streamlines existing processes and does not involve additional data being provided to the Home Office. Urgent and emergency care is always available from the NHS regardless of immigration status.
"We will carefully consider the points raised by the Health Select Committee."