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Medical data errors 'risk lives'

30th June 2006

Patient care is being risked by hospital bosses sending medical notes abroad to be typed up, a union says.

Public sector union Unison said record-keeping was being outsourced to workers in India, South Africa and the Philippines to help save money. They warned mistakes had been made in typing up audio files dictated by hospital doctors, which could risk patient lives.

The government urged staff to alert NHS trusts if errors were being made.

Unison, which represents nurses and non-clinical staff such as medical secretaries, highlighted a series of common blunders, including the word hypertension (high blood pressure) instead of hypotension (low blood pressure).

Urological was also mixed up with neurological, while mistakes were made with dosage figures.

The union said, when recordings were not clear, hospital-based medical secretaries could check with the doctors. But they warned that when the service was outsourced this was not possible.

Companies are thought to be approaching trusts, saying outsourcing medical secretary work will be a way of saving money. Several pilots are under way in London, Norfolk, Wiltshire, Cornwall and Bedfordshire.

The NHS is facing a £512m deficit with nearly a third of NHS organisations failing to balance its books last year. Over 30,000 medical secretaries are employed by the NHS to keep medical records up to date.

 

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