Employees angry over plans of British hospitals to outsource medical transcription to India have voted to go on strike if the plans are not shelved.
Several hospitals in Britain have outsourced or are in the process of outsourcing the work of typing up patients' notes to India to save costs at a time when they are facing financial deficits. These include hospitals in Staffordshire, Leeds and Cornwall.
At the Royal Cornwall Hospitals, staff has voted for industrial action if managers went ahead with plans to have patient notes typed in India.
Up to 100 staff in the Cornwall hospitals have been warned that they could be made compulsorily redundant if their work is outsourced to a private company, which is one of the options being considered by the hospital as it struggles to reduce a projected 31 pounds million deficit.
Unions are raising the spectre of patients' lives being at risk if the work were outsourced to India. The Cornwall hospital trust has said that no final decision had been taken but the staff have been concerned for several weeks over the outsourcing to India.
According to trade union Unison, during an outsourcing trial to India there were a number of serious errors, including inaccurate dosage of drugs and inaccurate diagnosis.
Unison, which claims to represent about half of the clerical and administrative staff, said there was an 85 percent majority in favour of industrial action, including an all-out strike, if the trust entered into a contract to outsource the work.
Regional officer Christine Dayus told the local media: "We know the trust has financial difficulties, but it also has a responsibility to ensure the safety of patients."
A typical example of the reasons cited to prevent job losses by sending work to India was the statement of David Prentis, union general secretary.
He said: "Lives are being put at risk by hospitals desperate to save money. Trusts are being wooed by companies promising free trials, pilots and huge financial savings if they allow medical typing to go abroad. Medical secretaries in the NHS work to 99.8 percent accuracy targets and once phased out' their knowledge and expertise will be lost for ever."