Court of Appeal finds that all patient information is confidential

We have been instructed by a number of patients to challenge guidance which requires hospitals to tell the Home Office if patients have received medical treatment but cannot pay for it, irrespective of whether the patient has consented to the sharing of the information. There is evidence that the rules are deterring people from accessing treatment, and the basis of the challenge is that the rules breach patient confidentiality and unlawfully tell hospitals that they have no discretion to refrain from informing the Home Office.

Judicial review proceedings were issued in the High Court last year, but the High Court dismissed the challenge earlier this year. The Claimants appealed to the Court of Appeal and on 16 October 2014 Lord Justice Richards granted them permission to appeal. He also gave the British Medical Association (BMA) permission to intervene in the case on the question of whether the information which hospitals are told to pass to the Home Office without patients’ consent breach confidentiality.

In a judgment handed down on 14 October 2015 the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, but overturned the High Court’s finding that patient information of this nature is not confidential. The Claimants plan to appeal to the Supreme Court, because the Court’s other findings raise significant points of law.
Adam Hundt represents the Claimants, instructing David Wolfe QC and Nick Armstrong of Matrix Chambers.

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