back to article NHS Digital execs showed 'little regard' for patient ethics by signing data deal

MPs have voiced “serious concerns” about NHS Digital’s leadership, claiming execs paid “little regard” to the ethics of sharing patient details for immigration enforcement, and are too close to government. Members of the House of Commons Health Committee slammed the body – which provides IT and data services for the UK's …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Little regard" seems to be overstating it. "None" would be more appropriate.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "the government should have taken more seriously the warning from Public Health England"

      And by that they mean the data fetishist senior civil servants who want this, but who don't give a s**t.

      Because as far as they are concerned you're not "customers" or "subjects" or "users"

      You're suspects.

      And you're probably guilty of something.

      There not sure what, but something.

      F**king Home Office. A fist in every major policy f**kup of the UK for decades.

  2. James 51

    The whole point is to try and create an environment so hostile that immigrants, both illegal and legal as well they pack up and leave. It's openly xenophobic and this approach will do more harm than good as it harms as all.

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge


      As a LEGAL inmigrant living in the uk I can assure you that the moment they notice my accent, medical practices dont care about my NIN number and require two proofs of address and payslips that prove I am paying taxes. None of this is required from non inmigrants, and this was not the case six years ago. It and is quite clearly a new NHS policy, the same that is expelling (LEGAL) inmigrants to the uk from other parts of what used to be the uk that just happened to lose their old old paperwork (like Jamaicans, etc living in the uk for 60+ years)

      Same type of burden in every step, and I also get quoted higher premiums than my coworkers for car insurance.. with no claims in the last 5 years...

      You can call all of that as you want, I call it discrimination.

      1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

        Re: Agree

        "You can call all of that as you want, I call it discrimination"

        Ok Mr. Angy-chip-on-Shoulder from Purley... as you wish; I'll call it "non-discrimination" then. The reason that "non-immigrants" do not need to constantly prove who they are is because most of us have an NHS medical history record that stretches back to birth, and that is taken as de-facto personal data.

        This angry rant is incorrect : "None of this is required from non immigrants". When anyone registers at a new clinic or surgery in the UK (i.e. if you move house into a new area, you do actually need to show some form of ID when you register or attend clinic for the first time.

        Perhaps you just have an angry and suspicious face? I'd suggest you try smiling more.

        1. teebie

          Re: Agree

          "When anyone registers at a new clinic or surgery in the UK[...], you do actually need to show some form of ID when you register or attend clinic for the first time."

          Not at my surgery. I keep taking my driving license, they keep- accepted by date of birth (cross-references with turning up at the expected time) as proof of ID.

          1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

            Re: Agree

            They dont accept my uk drivers license.

            I am fair skinned, dirty blond hair and green eyes, so it is not that I am black, appear to be indian, etc.

            Even if I decide to drop my dutch nationality to get the british one, I guees they will still keep asking for additional paperwork.. as there is NOTHING in the drivers license that says if you have aquired the british nationality or not...

            I am lucky in the sense that I wont have to drop my spanish one, so I could still move back to the continent.. but I know ppl who have moved country because of these things.

            I love the uk, dont get me wrong, but you cant expect me to be happy about being discriminated.

            Things in Spain are also heating up.. and state discrimination against non EU ppl is increasing de facto.. and also against british ppl.. and that is wrong. Wont go into the details,, but good old Lester Haines could have described it with a better sense of humour than me, and from personal experience(you are missed Lester).

        2. strum

          Re: Agree

          >(i.e. if you move house into a new area, you do actually need to show some form of ID when you register or attend clinic for the first time.


        3. Aitor 1 Silver badge

          Re: Agree

          This is not restricted to Jamaicans.. they can PROVE they have been in the UK because they have NIN and health records from BEFORE the cut date, yet they get deported, left to rot in the streets, etc after geting fired thanks to the authorities, etc.

          Also germans, etc, provide the right paperwork and are asked to leave. If you give incentives for saying "NO, go away" and no penalty for breaking the law, this is only to be expected.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Agree

        >> Same type of burden in every step, and I also get quoted higher premiums than my coworkers for car insurance.. with no claims in the last 5 years...

        And my insurance is *lower* when I state that I was not born in the UK. Perhaps because I came from a country with lower accident statistics?

        You are retro-fitting your observations to fit your perceptions and beliefs. I believe this is called confirmation bias. Look it up.

        BTW, as an immigrant, by definition, you are "discriminated" from a citizen. There would be no difference to a citizen then, but certain rights are reserved for citizens. Unfair discrimination is what you need to prove.

        PS: I have never had this problem of showing payslips on every visit to the NHS. You are doing something wrong.

        1. James 51

          Re: Agree

          re AC: Non-UK nationals are automatically charged more for car insurance than UK nationals.. Know quite a few people who have been on the receving end of this and have been told by the insurer it is because they are a non-UK national. Change that one varable and the price starts multiplying by x3 to x7 depending on your circumstances and who you are talking to.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Agree

            Sorry james51 but no in my case I need to go and specifically edit the insurance form to change the default, that I was not born in the UK, as this lowers my premium.

            I think it depends on which country and how many years of driving etc. In my case I learned to drive here in the UK as a non-UK national/immigrant and come from a country that also drives on the left.

            What is clear is that the country of birth can change insurance premiums. I contest your assertion that it is always higher, I most certainly get a lower premium.

            For this to be unfair discrimination, it needs to be proven that in spite of the insurance actuarial data showing that non-UK nationals are lower risk, they are charged higher premiums. It does not look like you have this information as you would have known about cases similar to mine.

            Without this, it is just another cognitive bias, people only yell when their insurance is higher and so you notice that more, missing the data points where it was lower because no one talks about that much..

            PS: Your statement also excludes the possibility that non-uk nationals are higher risk? I have no data either way, but I cannot rule it out. In another country with different rules, there is a chance the statistics indicate more mistakes or claims.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          I, sir, am a loyal subject of Her Britannic Majesty !

      3. danielanthony

        Re: Agree

        Both my grandparents came to the UK as refugees during WW2, both had very strong accents until the day they died. In fact, one girlfriend said my grandad sounded like Count Dracula :)

        Anyhow, I never heard either of them complain about being singled out due to being 'foreigners' and the NHS never asked them to prove their entitlement to treatment as they both slowly died of degenerative diseases.

        I'm not sure if the newer generation of immigrants expectations are different, but my grandparents loved their 50+ years in the UK and never wanted to return to their respective countries (Latvia & Switzerland).

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Agree

          @strum. my greek dual nationality father did in cumbria in late 2016. He also needed to at the dentist run by mydentist too. I have never been queried. He has a heavy accent and does have dark olive skin even in his 80s. I dont have the same Mediterranean cast to my appearance nor accent.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Agree

          Your past anecdata about your grandparents has little relevance to the story which is about very recent changes that now require the NHS to reveal data about possible illegal immigrants (i.e. anyone a bit 'foreign' who may or may not be here legally) so that they can be traced and removed. Hence fears that such people will avoid NHS contact, even if possibly having a highly contagious disease.

  3. James 51

    David Cameron sold NHS data for a tiny fraction of its actual worth. You can bet other departments will get in on the act soon and in a country were councils use anti-terrorism powers to spy on parents to check were they live and tackle dog fouling, that should worry us all.

  4. nematoad Silver badge

    It only makes sense.

    "... only allows confidential data to be shared in the case of serious crime."

    Yes, but in the mind of the current government any foreigner is potentially committing a serious crime simply by being in the country.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It only makes sense.

      Being in the country Illegally SHOULD be treated as a serious crime.

      I am against Data sharing from the NHS to the HSCIC (NHS Digital) AS it is NOT part of the NHS it is independant it is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body and outside the control of the NHS. if NHS Digital dont have the data they cant share it. and the NHS should not be giving our data even if "anonymised" to any body or organisation not controlled by it or covered by the NHS confidentiality rules. without our prior "INFORMED" consent for each data export

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: It only makes sense.

        Being in the country Illegally SHOULD be treated as a serious crime.

        Not every crime is a serious crime. Serious crimes cause major, life-changing harm. Things like murder, rape, torture, planting bombs, slavery, large scale theft. People must be strongly deterred from committing these crimes, and perpetrators stopped before they do even more harm, at almost any cost in Police resources.

        Letting your dog shit on the pavement, nicking a Mars bar or overstaying your visa are not serious crimes. Fortunately for you, talking out of your arse isn't a serious crime either. Unless you are Boris Johnson, of course. What was the name of that woman in an Iranian slammer?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It only makes sense.

          "Fortunately for you, talking out of your arse" - Your Argument FAILS right here.

          We appear to have different points of view and there is nothing wrong with that.

          My belief is that anyone in the country legally and obeying the law should all be treated by the law equally with no regard for Nationality, Colour, sex, religion, disability or sexuality.

          Services provided by the state should be provided to those people who need them AND are here legally AND entitled to them.

          people here illegally have to support themselves somehow. which will be through crime of some type, not necessarily all committed by them, employers of illegal workers are committing a crime, landlords housing people without the right to be in the country are committing a crime. and the money from these activities won't be taxed and wont help pay for the NHS, Social care, Pensions, And other investment in the country. Also those jobs and housing taken by illegal immigrants are not available to legal residents so that actually increases unemployment and cost of rents and costs of associated benefits paid by the Govt.

          Unfortunately the Home office have brought this issue on themselves by not knowing who is or is not in the country. they don't even have records of this.

          look at the current issues this failure to know who is here legally is causing with the windrush generation. People who legally arrived here before the 1971 change in regulations but are now being hounded to prove their status despite the fact the home office themselves didn't issue paperwork at the time or keep information of arrival and indefinite leave to remain or other immigration status.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It only makes sense.

            @AC that's the whole point of this discussion - legal immigrants are being discriminated against by the state.

            It's wrong and it's illegal.

      2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: It only makes sense.

        Being in the country Illegally SHOULD be treated as a serious crime.

        Bollocks should it. It's no worse than having strayed on to private land without permission.

        To me, at best, it's simply jobsworthian to suggest merely being here when one shouldn't be is a serious crime. I am not saying that shouldn't be addressed when it occurs but real crime rests upon harm done and damage caused.

        If someone wants to come here, to work, support themselves, pay their taxes and dues, contribute to the country as much as anyone else does I don't really see the harm being done. In fact they are probably contributing more than those engaging in tax evasion and avoidance.

        If people are acting illegally beyond just being here without legally being allowed to be then yes; address that.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Home Office ignores advice...

    ..who would of thought it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Home Office ignores advice...

      You really do struggle to differentiate between "of" and "have" don't you?

      Does your head whistle in a cross-wind?

      My 4 year old nephew writes with a higher level grasp of English.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Home Office ignores advice...

        @cornz 1

        "My 4 year old nephew writes with a higher level grasp of English." Bully for him.

        How do you know you're not discriminating against someone whose second language is English? How good is your German version of the phrase, or Polish?

        Anyone can be a grammar nazi. It's only a problem if you can't understand what they're saying (and in this case, even a 4 year old can).

        It really only matters to up tight English teachers - no one else on the planet gives a hoot. Or could care less (for the yanks). LOL.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well done for the NHS, seriously, too much abuse on the system, South Americans (Spanish/Italian/Portuguese passport holders) register even family members that leave thousands of miles away the UK, screw them.

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge


      While I dont doubt that this makes sense to some people, the fraud mostly happens in Spain: people from abroad register in Spain to get treatment.. plent of them ar british citizens.. and those south americans prefer to do that fraud in Spain.. as the seguridad social (SS) has more coverage than the NHS (except dental/prescription glasses).

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Nope

        people need committing if they are coming to the UK for NHS dental. I dont even think its fair that prisoners are forced into NHS dental.

  7. sictransit
  8. Solarflare


    MPs have voiced “serious concerns” about NHS Digital’s leadership, claiming execs paid “little regard” to the ethics of sharing patient details for immigration enforcement and are too close to government.

    Members of the House of Commons Health Committee slammed the body - which provides IT and data services for the NHS - for signing a data-sharing agreement with the Home Office.

    So I'm just trying to straighten this out in my head... MPs (the government) have voiced serious concerns about NHS Digital (a public organisation which is beholden to the Department for Health, i.e. the government) and say that they are too close to government?

    So the government is criticising the government for being too close to the government and not caring about the privacy of 'the people'?

    1. nematoad Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      "MPs (the government) have voiced serious concerns about NHS Digital (a public organisation which is beholden to the Department for Health"

      Not quite. Members of the government are members of Parliament, Commons or Lords but not all members of Parliament are members of the government. Otherwise you would have Jeremy Corbyn in government as well as May, Gove, Hunt etc.

      It's really a case of the right hand and the left hand not agreeing with each other.

    2. Bluewhelk

      Re: Huh?

      MPs (members of parliment) are elected to the house of commons, most of these are affiliated to a political party, the party with the most MPs gets to form the government. The party leader then chooses people (mostly MPs from their party) to be ministers and form the exectutive, a kind of inner circle with specific responsibilities for heath, defense and so on. The ministers are then, theoretically at least, in charge of the civil servants in the department they represent.

      MPs tend to become affiliated with the party that most represents what they themselves believe, although this can be a comprimise. Unless they are ministers they moslty get to follow their own ways and get to sit on various commitees and so forth. The commitees will usually have MPs from multiple parties on them and perform a role in balancing the powers of the exectutive.

      In this case it is a bunch of semi-independant MPs on a commitee criticising the executive branch from allowing the civil servants they are in charge of to do the data sharing.

      tldr in the UK the term Goverment is an amophous arrangement, some bits of which can critisise other bits so yes :-)

      Edit: What nematoad said too

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm a bit split on this one

    Whilst I detest the wide-spread and unregulated sharing of personal data, with no apparent regard for the privacy of the data subjects, this is primarily focused on private organisations who are trying to monetise the data somehow. I feel slightly like a hypocrite in this instance, as, on many occasions I have dealt with different government departments who seem to not talk to each other (if dept. A knows I have moved address, how come dept B doesn't? - "Why the hell don't government departments talk to each other?"). So in a way, I am OK with Gov departments have a single version of the truth rather than the mess it is today - but equally I am against the unfettered sharing of everything. In this instance I would expect the gov. to know my current address - if the most up-to-date version is held with NHS then I don't think it is a big privacy breach for then to share that with other gov departments.

  10. Richard 12 Silver badge

    It's a potential public health disaster

    If you think that your data is likely to be used to your detriment, you will either lie or you won't seek treatment at all.

    Thus these people will simply wait until they collapse on the street and have to be taken by ambulance, at huge cost to the NHS.

    Or they'll spread something around for years that would have been easily treatable or preventable.

    Once again the Home Office demonstrate a complete and total disregard for the obvious consequences of their actions.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Socialized Medicine

    This is something that's always worried me about socialized medicine (whether nationalized as in the UK or run by private insurers as in the US). First they come for the illegal immigrants. Then petty criminals and druggies. Then you'll hear about abuse by bureaucrats with political and personal grudges, but nothing will be done.

    Pretty soon they'll roll out a "Social Credit" system like China. FaceGoog AI will rate your attitude and if it's found lacking, you'll find your appointments keep getting rescheduled for months and years... shadowbanned!

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Socialized Medicine

      It's not anything particular to healthcare. The root problem is the willingness of a subset of politicians (usually those sufficiently ruthless and mendacious enough to have climbed the greasy pole) to abandon principle in favour of what they prefer to think of as pragmatism. You can find examples throughout history: the one which initially comes to mind for me is the way servicemen were deliberately exposed to above-ground nuclear tests in Australia in the 1950s.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The nasty party showing their faces again. Hopefully a wind rushes in and blows them out of office.

    Brexit is taking us back to the 70's in more senses than one.

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: The nasty party showing their faces again

      I dont expect that to happen.

      Labour mostly does not appeal to he poor and the young. In particular to the poor.

      The poor (and I include the working poor) NEED their situation to improve, It is not a matter of "would be nice if".. no, they need that to happen.

      As long as labour keeps insisting the we inmigrants do not squeeze the locals, they wont be popular with the poor. As they do notice how many ppl come from abroad and get te jobs that are denied to them, or their salaries go down.

      Now, this might be great for the economy as a whole, but explain that to the person baraley making a living. He doesnt care about the economy, he wants to feed his children, get a new(er) car and have a big ass telly, so no complex reasoning.. and there you have it: populism in the rise.

      Sorry for the rant.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The nasty party showing their faces again

        @Aitor 1

        Well Labour doesn't stand up for the poor, no one else in UK politics will. The multi milllionare tory types have no idea what living on a shoestring is really like and the red tories in the Labour party don't care either. They should be ashamed - they're only in it for themselves.

        Public service - what a joke.

  13. Slx

    Is this not also INCREDIBLY dangerous for public health?

    If you think about this from a person who may be undocumented / have questionable immigration status, there's a huge risk that they simply will not access any form of healthcare.

    The result of that could be anything from children going with out vaccinations, people suffering from highly treatable and highly communicable disease that could impact the general population. People becoming disabled and ending up wrecking their entire lives, people even dying from highly treatable common illnesses!

    If you want to control immigration, this is most definitely not a source of data that you should be using. It's just creating a whole load of dangerous and inhumane situations.

    It just seems very counterproductive and dangerous to me.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best interests of patients

    Government: That does not mean what you think it means.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having worked in....

    ...the NHS IT for years nothing surprises me. Most high level IT managers are yes men/women who'll do as anyone tells them as long as they get paid a good wage. Until a restructure comes along and they realise they are getting the boot. Then they move on and are replaced with another sheep.

    It's sickening as no matter now many times people lower down in IT warn the high level management of issues like this, they are ignored because "You're not consultants". What? Are these the same consultants that took you for meals BEFORE they got the contract. Coughbribescough.

    Take the bods I saw walking around A&E the other day. All suited and booted talking poshly. You know they are the people that run the place, yet the place is a shit hole. You can tell their wallets are filled to the brim with all the NHS money they are taking for themselves while fucking over the trust they work for.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK NHS?

    There is no UK NHS. Each nations NHS is distinct and are not under any central organisation.

    NHS Digital is to do with NHS England and, as I understand it, Wales. It is not part of NHS Scotland or HSCNI.

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