Matt Hancock is facing a court challenge to stop him sharing sensitive NHS patient data with private firms.
Information on mental and sexual health, criminal records, abuse and drugs use is to be transferred to a new database that will be available to academic researchers and businesses.
Furious privacy campaigners have accused Mr Hancock is trying to “sneak out” a “secret” plan. They have served notice that the Health Secretary will face legal action unless it is put on hold.
More than 55 million patients have just until 23 June to opt out of the plan, which has had barely any publicity.
NHS Digital, which oversees the project, insists all details on the new database will be anonymous and protected by encryption security systems.
But lawyers for campaigners Foxglove and patients group JustTreatment say it is illegal with no guarantees that highly personal information won’t end up in the wrong hands ?
Cori Crider, director of Foxglove, said: “This is being rammed through in a rush with no c,Arita for patients or who gets the keys to this giant new data vault.
“If you ask patients whether they want details of their fertility treatment or abortion or results of other procedures shared with companies they are not going to be happy.”
A similar scheme was proposed seven years ago but dropped after a public outcry.
The new plan was announced with no fanfare by Mr Hancock last month and publicised only on the NHS Digital website and flyers in GP surgeries.