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Administrative Court rejects challenge to data sharing by NHS


R (W, X, Y and Z) v Secretary of State for Health

The Administrative Court rejected a challenge to data sharing arrangements, whereby the NHS shares data about patients who have incurred NHS debts with the Home Office.

Immigration rules introduced in 2011 allow the Home Office to impose an immigration sanction in the event that a person with an immigration application has unpaid NHS debts.  The Department of Health accordingly issued guidance stating that NHS trusts should share data in relation to such debtors with the Home Office so that it is able to administer the rules.  The guidance was challenged on the grounds that the data concerned was of a confidential nature and neither NHS trusts nor the Department of Health had the power to pass it on and that the guidance constituted an unlawful fetter on the powers of NHS trusts.

Mr Justice Silber rejected the challenge, holding that the relevant data does not constitute confidential information and that its transmission fell within the statutory powers of the NHS trusts and within both the statutory powers and the common law powers of the Secretary of State.  The Judge also rejected the argument that the guidance unlawfully fettered the powers of the trusts on the ground that the statutory scheme would be undermined if trusts had a discretion not to transmit the data to the Home Office.

The judgment is here.

Marie Demetriou QC and Sarah Love represented the Secretary of State for Health.