Hospitals in Leeds are the latest medical trusts facing major losses to outsource medical transcription work to India to save nearly one million pounds a year.
Around 60 specialist posts are to be abolished as part of the outsourcing. Hospitals in Leeds are reported to be facing debts of 84 million pounds. Several other hospitals in Britain have already outsourced such work to India.
AdvertisementThe outsourcing plans, however, have been fiercely criticised by union leaders, MPs and medical secretaries who fear lives could be put at risk.
A medical secretary at Leeds General Infirmary told the Yorkshire Evening Post, a local newspaper: "We've seen these mistakes for ourselves. "It's ridiculous that the work of highly trained people is being sent to India, where English is not the first language. There are bound to be errors."
Dave Prentis, general secretary of trade union Unison alleged serious mistakes had been uncovered at hospitals, which had already tried sending work abroad.
Leeds East MP George Mudie said: "I am very worried about the security of sending patient information overseas especially as we know that hackers can get into anything on the internet.
"Also medical secretaries are highly trained in their areas. If there are any queries, they are usually in the same building as the doctor to be able to check. That can't and won't happen if the person typing is in India or anywhere else."
Medical secretaries at St James's and Leeds General hospitals earn around 20,000 pound a year. Similar work is undertaken in India for as little as 44 pence an hour.
Medical secretary vacancies across Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have been frozen in advance of the project and the trust is advertising for a private firm to coordinate it.
A trust spokeswoman said: "Following successful pilots in a number of areas, we are now looking to introduce third party digital transcribing.
"This is part of a wider initiative to increase efficiency and make the best use of our staff skills and experience. Taking away the burden of time-consuming administrative tasks will enable medical secretaries to focus on patient contact and provide more support to consultants."