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NHS hospitals sending your confidential notes to India to be typed up

  • A series of hospitals have admitted using  cheap secretarial agencies in India

By Sophie Borland

PUBLISHED:10:53 EST, 10  September 2012| UPDATED:19:25 EST, 10 September 2012

Hospitals are sending hundreds of thousands  of confidential letters about patients to India to be typed up by poorly-paid  workers.

NHS trusts have been accused of laying off  their secretaries and instead dispatching patients’ notes more than 6,000 miles  to save money on staffing costs.

In the last year, at least 650,000 letters  containing sensitive medical information are known to have been sent to India by  a total of eight trusts, but many others are likely to be doing the  same.

MPs warn that complicated medical terms may  be mis-translated by the Indian workers leading to ‘tragic  consequences’.

Outsourced: A series of London-area hospitals, including Great Ormond Street (pictured), has admitted using cheap secretarial agencies in India to type patient letters 

Outsourced: A series of London-area hospitals, including  Great Ormond Street (pictured), has admitted using cheap secretarial agencies in  India to type patient letters

At least one hospital – Addenbrooke’s in  Cambridge – has already been forced to stop sending letters to India because the  standard was so much worse.

Normally after seeing a patient a  doctor  dictates a referral letter to a consultant into a tape recorder,  which is far  quicker than typing it out. This is then given to the  doctor’s medical  secretary who types it up and sends it, saving the  doctor time.

But recently hospitals have begun  setting up  schemes with private firms whereby the recordings are sent to India to be typed  up and returned a few weeks later.

Figures obtained by Labour MP John  Spellar  under the Freedom of Information Act show that in 2011/12, West  Middlesex  University Hospital trust in west London, sent 234,000 letters to India.

Great Ormond Street Hospital trust in Central  London sent 123,000 letters, while North Middlesex University  Hospital trust in  north London sent 137,000.

Last week the former health secretary Andrew Lansley (pictured) admitted that his own local hospital, Addenbrooke¿s, had ended its contract because the quality of the letters coming back was poor 

Last week the former health secretary Andrew Lansley  (pictured) admitted that his own local hospital, Addenbrooke’s, had ended its  contract because the quality of the letters coming back was poor

Other NHS trusts that said they  routinely  dispatch letters to India  were: Kingston Hospital in  south-west London;  Epsom and St Helier University in south London and  Surrey; the Whittington  Hospital in north London; the Royal National  Orthopaedic Hospital in north  London.

Barts and the London in east  London also  admitted dispatching letters in the last year but said it  had stopped the  practice in July. It did not provide a reason.

Several of the NHS trusts insist  there is no  risk that patients’ confidentiality will be breached as  their names and dates  of birth are removed beforehand.

But last week the former health  secretary  Andrew Lansley admitted that his own local hospital,  Addenbrooke’s, had ended  its contract because the quality of the letters coming back was poor.

Mr Spellar, who raised the issue in  the  Commons last week, said: ‘There is a safety issue. There’s the  potential for  something to go tragically wrong.

‘If someone gives the wrong advice  and this  is not picked up then a patient could be misdiagnosed or seen  less urgently  than they should be.’

He added that it was ‘outrageous’ that NHS  jobs were being outsourced abroad.

‘Unemployment in the UK is at  unacceptable  levels and the economy is suffering the worst double dip  recession since the  Second World War,’ he said.

‘Medical secretaries are being  downgraded or  laid off. This is work that could easily be based and  carried out in the UK,  maintaining jobs and keeping opportunities for  our young people.’

Mr Spellar has not yet received replies from  all NHS trusts in England but he suspects others are also sending letters  abroad.

Recently it has also emerged that a  number  of primary care trusts – which oversee GP services – have also  been sending  patient letters abroad.

At least 46 PCTs have signed a deal  with a  private firm which involves having some of their administrative  and secretarial  work outsourced to India.

Several GPs have reported errors and in one  case confidential information about patients was sent to the wrong  PCT

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2201125/NHS-hospitals-sending-confidential-notes-India-typed-up.html#ixzz267xfjlY5

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