Chris Hipkins says COVID-19 patient data leak has 'ring of dirty politics'

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says he's disappointed politicians are involved in the COVID-19 patient data leak and the situation has "a ring of dirty politics to it".

National Party MP Hamish Walker admitted on Tuesday evening to passing on patients' information to the media that was given to him by a "source". He was subsequently stripped of his portfolios by National leader Todd Muller.

Acting chief executive of Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT) and former National Party president Michelle Boag later confirmed she sent the information to Walker.

Hipkins says he's pleased more information has come to light, but feels let down politicians are involved.

"This is a very disappointing situation. It does have a ring of dirty politics about it and I think that could be very sad for the forthcoming election campaign," he says.

"I was disappointed because sometimes Members of Parliament are given information inappropriately - that does happen from time to time - and I do think New Zealanders have to rely on the judgment of Members of Parliament to do the right thing."

He says MPs should act with care when given sensitive information, regardless of how they received it.

"I think if a Member of Parliament can't accept that receiving people's health information is something they should treat with a degree of confidence, then that says quite a lot about their own levels of personal integrity and judgement."

Hipkins wouldn't comment when asked whether Walker should stand down as MP for Clutha-Southland, saying it's an internal matter for the National Party.

He says he wants to be careful not to prejudice the investigation into the leak, which is still ongoing. He also hadn't spoken to Michael Heron QC, who's leading the inquiry, since it was important the investigation was conducted independently.

The ARHT has access to people's confidential health information because of the work they do, he says.

"All New Zealanders are entitled to know that any information about them that that organisation has will be treated with the utmost of confidence and with their privacy being respected."

Walker said in a statement he admitted to leaking details to "expose the Government's shortcomings".

"It was never intended that the personal details would be made public, and they have not been, either by me or the persons I forwarded them to," he says.

"I sincerely apologise for how I have handled this information and to the individuals impacted by this. I will be fully cooperating with the Michael Heron QC inquiry."

Boag said she regrets passing on the information, and she has since resigned as acting CEO of ARHT.

"My actions were mine alone and should not reflect at all on the professionalism, integrity and outstanding reputation of the Rescue Helicopter staff."