UK's biggest trade union Unison has alleged that medical records of patients that are typed outside the country have many errors that could cost the life of a patient. Many NHS trusts are outsourcing the work to countries like India to save costs, the union said.
However some typing errors like "hypertension", which means high blood pressure, instead of "hypotension", which means low blood pressure could result in serious problems for patients. Another example cited by the union included "known malignant" instead of "non-malignant" and "urological" instead of "neurological".
"Lives are being put at risk by hospitals desperate to save money. Patients' medical records must be absolutely up to date and accurate. The consequences of typing errors are too frightening to contemplate," Unison general secretary Dave Prentis alleged.
This warning from the union comes even as hospitals around the country are shedding staff in order to save money. Unison said yesterday that patients' medical notes were being sent Philippines and South Africa where the costs are very less. In UK medical secretaries earn between £14,037 and £16,799 compared with around £13,250 in countries like South Africa.
"There are real fears for patients because their health and welfare will be put at risk if this practice continues to grow. The Government has to rethink this latest idea that medical typing can be done at a distance without risking patients' health. It is ridiculous and is a step too far," Mr Prentis said.
Medical records are dictated in England and then sent electronically to other countries where they are transcribed. Reacting to these allegations, the Department of Health said, "We expect the NHS to ensure that all patient information is processed fairly, lawfully and as transparently as possible and we are confident that the NHS shares this aim."