NHS hospitals have used the credit control company Experian to check their patients for & # 39; income opportunities & # 39; abroad, as research has shown.
Health employers have encouraged dozens of hospitals across England to use the service, but the company has denied that there are plans to do so.
Hospital trust in central London has been using the company for more than three years, according to the Health Service Journal.
People who do not live in the UK have to pay for their NHS treatment and according to officials, the Experian checks were only a detailed way to confirm the status of people.
But there are concerns that they have violated data protection laws and patients did not know that their information was shared with a private financial company.
A campaigner said the NHS didn't even know if it was legal.
The Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust in London (photo: University Hospital Lewisham) is already using Experian to check if his patients are real UK residents and NHS bosses said more hospitals should do it
& # 39; People going to the NHS don't expect their data to be transferred to a credit finance agency & # 39 ;, a Med Confidential spokesperson, Phil Booth, told the HSJ.
# It is extraordinary that a national body, which has not even determined the legality of what they do, seems to do everything they can through this carefully designed process to wash their hands for all consequences and put them to trust. that is foolish enough to join this pilot. & # 39;
Experian is a private consumer company with a value of around £ 24 billion, which is best known for conducting credit checks.
HOW MANY PAYMENT OF SEA PAYMENT FOR NHS CARE?
While people living in the UK receive almost all NHS treatments for free, people from abroad have to pay.
How much they pay depends on where they come from and what they do in the UK.
People from outside the European Economic Area pay 50 percent more than people within the European Economic Area, and Europeans who have accidents during their holidays can be covered by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme.
These are some example costs of NHS treatment for patients who need emergency treatment in a hospital:
- General surgery £ 4,314 (£ 6,471 non-EEA)
- Trauma surgery £ 5,018 (£ 7,527)
- Heart (heart) surgery £ 11,396 (£ 17,094)
- A&E visit £ 1,484 (£ 2,226)
- Spinal cord injury £ 18,569 (£ 27,853)
- Stroke medicine £ 7,146 (£ 10,718)
- Medical cancer care; chemotherapy £ 4,890 (£ 7,334)
- Dentistry for children £ 939 (£ 1,409)
- Pediatric surgery £ 4,322 (£ 6,482)
- Baby delivery £ 3,024.50 (£ 4,536.75)
Source and full list of costs and procedures: NHS improvement
For this it is based on financial information to see if people pay their bills on time, how long they have bank accounts, how much credit card debt they have and what type of loans, mortgages or car loans they have taken out.
The HSJ study showed that the NHS spent the patient's names, addresses, birth dates and NHS numbers on the company to check where they came from.
And bosses at NHS England and NHS Improvement reportedly sent emails to 51 hospitals across the country suggesting they were going to use the company.
They said it was a & # 39; income option & # 39; offered for the hospitals.
Several trusts were working on setting up controls, an insider at Experian said, but Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust were the only ones who used it regularly.
This allowed it to send invoices for £ 4.2 million to foreign patients in 2017-18, with about a quarter of that money now paid off.
The trust that hospitals run in South East London has been undermined by debts incurred by & # 39; health tourists & # 39; who come to England to use the NHS and then leave again.
Figures revealed by the Mail yesterday on Sunday showed that only the maternity ward owes £ 1.2 million to mothers from abroad.
It has only earned back £ 30,000 of these costs and the unit's staff has opposed the decision to charge foreign mothers for their care.
NHS Improvement said it had not itself checked how the system complies with data protection rules, but that no clinical information should be shared.
In an internal email sent in January, NHSI officials said it was: & # 39; Checking historical data (2017-18) to confirm residence permit by linking a person to an address using the analyze a patient's digital footprint and then credit bureaus for other aspects that refute & # 39; residency against economic activity, which may enable us to identify ex-pats and other health tourists. & # 39;
The email added: & # 39; Experian is already being used by a great deal of acute confidence to offer residency checks, so an agreement for sharing and processing data is already available …
& # 39; The required information is name, address, DOB, preferably an NHS number or other identification, e-mail address and telephone number.
& # 39; Clinical or other sensitive information is not required. & # 39;
WHAT ARE DATA PROTECTION RULES?
The General Data Protection Regulation (AVG) of the European Union is a law that entered into force on May 25, 2018.
It offers better data protection for all people in the European Union (EU).
This means that we must determine how companies use and sell the data they collect about their users.
The law marked the largest revision of the privacy rules for personal data since the birth of the internet.
According to the AVG, companies are required to report data breaches within 72 hours and to allow customers to export and delete their data.
Part of the AVG is the right for people to know in advance whether their personal information is being collected and used, and for the company that keeps the information transparent about what it does with personal information.
The company that stores the data must also make it freely accessible to the person concerned.
Under the right to be forgotten, also known as Data Erasing, people have the right to have the company erase their personal data, to stop sending it to other parties, and possibly to prevent third parties from using it.
This means that people can withdraw their consent to use information about them even after they have been transferred.
This right requires that companies balance the rights of a person with the & # 39; public interest in the availability of the data & # 39; when considering such requests.
MailOnline has contacted Experian, NHS England and the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust for comments.
The NHS Trust said to HSJ: & # 39; We have a notice on our website about sharing certain information with non-NHS organizations.
& # 39; It is important to emphasize that Experian does not perform credit checks, but looks at many sources to see if patients are economically active in the UK.
& # 39; This is one of several indicators to help check that patients are UK residents and are eligible for care that is free in a non-discriminatory way at the point of access. & # 39;
And Experian told the medical news site: & # 39; Experian is currently working with one NHS trust to help them verify the identity of patients.
& # 39; The trust sends patient data lists so that we can refer each other and check whether they are UK residents and therefore eligible for services. This process is comparable to most standard services for residence control. & # 39;
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