Unison reveals transcription errors30th June 2006
Health Union, Unison, has condemned NHS Trusts that outsource the transcription of medical notes to South Africa, the Philippines and India, describing the practice as ‘very dangerous’.
General Secretary, Dave Prentis, speaking at the union’s annual conference this week, said that Unison had accumulated anecdotal evidence of potentially life-threatening mistakes made by overseas transcribers, including:
• confusing "hypertension" (high blood pressure) with "hypotension" (low blood pressure);
• confusing "A septic" (infected) with "aseptic" (not infected);
• mixing up "15mg" and "50mg" drug dosages.
"It's beyond belief," said Prentis. "It does not improve the service and the health and welfare of patients is being put at risk. The government needs to rethink this off-the-wall idea."
Unison says that transcribers in South Africa, the Philippines and India are being paid to transcribe NHS doctors' dictations - but do not have the benefit of supporting medical notes, letters and prescriptions against which to check the accuracy of their transcriptions. Confidentiality is also a concern when notes are sent to countries that do not have the kind of data protection laws that operate in the European Union.
In addition to concerns about accuracy and confidentiality, the union says medical secretaries' jobs are being put at risk. It cites the case of East and North Herts NHS Trust which, it claims, has issued redundancy notices to 160 medical secretaries, asking for 58 volunteers. Medical secretaries in the NHS work to 99.8% accuracy targets and the union is concerned that once 'phased out' their knowledge and expertise will be lost forever.
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