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Crackdown on migrants forces NHS doctors to “act as border guards”

A medical charity has launched a campaign against government guidance that “makes border guards of doctors” by allowing the Home Office to access details of undocumented migrants who seek NHS treatment.

Doctors of the World runs clinics for undocumented migrants, victims of trafficking and asylum seekers. It has assisted numerous patients, some pregnant and some with cancer, who are afraid of accessing NHS healthcare due to concerns that a visit to the doctor could lead to deportation.

The organisation has joined forces with the human rights charity Liberty and the National Aids Trust to launch a petition aimed at reversing a data-sharing policy between the NHS and the Home Office implemented this year.

They want the government to “stop using NHS patients’ personal information to carry out immigration enforcement”.

Lu Hiam, a GP and Doctors of the World adviser, said: “Confidentiality is the cornerstone of the doctor-patient relationship. Deterring sick people from getting healthcare has serious consequences. Putting this data-sharing agreement in place without consulting doctors is nonsensical, given what a huge impact it has on our professional role.”

The government and NHS Digital, the body that stores patient information, published the agreement in January. The pact makes it clear that NHS Digital is legally required to hand over non-clinical patient details, including addresses and dates of birth, to the Home Office.

Use of NHS data has allowed immigration officials to locate, arrest and deport visa overstayers and undocumented migrants.

Read more in The Guardian.

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