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Patient records security worries MP

The security of patients’ records is being put at risk by the decision of hospital trusts to outsource their administration to overseas’ companies, an MP claimed.

Labour MP John Spellar (Warley) said a Freedom of Information request found thousands of appointment letters were being written by foreign firms as hospital trusts looked to cut their administration bill.

West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth had outsourced 230,000 letters while Whittington Hospital in Highgate, North London, had asked foreign companies to write 90,000 letters.

Speaking outside the Commons, Mr Spellar said: “I think there are some issues around confidentiality given the records of some government departments in keeping our information safe.

“I think there is an underlying issue about the security of our medical records because we have so far had half a dozen or so requests back and all of them have shown quite substantial amounts of work being taken off-shore.”

Mr Spellar earlier raised the issue in the Commons during the business statement. He said Epsom Hospital had outsourced 11,000 while Kingston Hospital had sent 17,000 letters overseas to be written up.

In a question to new Commons leader Andrew Lansley, he added: “As medical secretaries are laid off, can we have a debate as to whether the health secretary can justify taking away British jobs from British workers?”

In reply, Mr Lansley said when Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge attempted to cut costs the same way, they gave up.

He said: “I was very interested in my own constituency just a few years ago that Addenbrookes, a major hospital, had outsourced some of their activity of that kind but brought it back to this country as a consequence of the quality that they could deliver here.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • This is a fairly common practice. I don't agree with it, but cheap labour in a climate where finance is the main driver, particularly saving money, what else do you expect?

    How long before technology allows virtual clinics to be held by cheaper nurses and doctors overseas? How long before ITU nurses offer specialist support to ward nurses remotely, using technology to monitor patients and contacting/advising nurses on the ward actually caring for the patient.

    The technology is there, it is being used in some places outside the UK in the name of progress and of course, in some situations it is massive progress, especially where advice is all that's needed, but how long before this becomes more common practice and not just within a single organisation but across countries/continents. What then about patient record security?

    Still, if we save money in the NHS, it's all okay then, never mind the cost is UK jobs and the UK economy continuing to decline as a result of unemployment. It's a vicious circle; as the economy will shrink, so we will have to save more money as less taxes to fund the NHS. I'll leave the rest to your imagination, but someone needs to start getting a grip and start getting a more balanced strategy for the future.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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