Giles Watling, MP for Clacton, has worked with colleagues to secure a change to the Data Protection Bill, to stop the sharing of patient information between NHS Digital and the Home Office.

Previously, a Memorandum of Understanding, existed between the Home Office, which allowed officials to request confidential patient details from health professionals as part of their investigations into illegal immigration.

NHS digital shared the details of some 3,000 patients last year after they submitted information during GP and hospital appointments, and there were concerns that this could stop people from seeking medical attention.

Giles backed an amendment to the Data Protection Bill, tabled by his colleague Sarah Wollaston MP, which led to the Government suspending this arrangement immediately. However, data can still be requested to locate foreign national offenders the Government intends to deport, who have been given a prison sentence of 12 months or more, and other criminals who present a risk to the public.

Giles said:

“It is right that we have taken these steps to ensure that data from members of the public is not inadvertently shared with Government departments. Moreover, I am pleased that these steps do not prevent the Government from deporting foreign criminals, and Ministers are still able to trace immigration offenders using a range of different investigative measures.”