WORKFORCE: Medical transcription services at University Hospitals of Leicester Trust are to be outsourced to India with the initial loss of 12 posts, it has been revealed.

The trust has chosen two companies, Dictate IT and Softech, which will both use Indian workers to transcribe electronic audio recordings made by doctors and return them to the hospital within 48 hours.

The changes have angered union bosses who have labelled the idea as “lunacy”.

But the hospital claims it has had to change the service after poor performance saw some discharge letters taking as long as 12 weeks to be transcribed and sent out.

Initially only one division of the hospital will use the service from June. However, it is expected to be rolled out across the trust over the next two years. The flexible contract allows the hospital to increase or decrease the amount of work to both companies as it sees fit.

It has stressed no patient identiable information will be sent to India.

Carol Brown, regional organiser for Unison, said: “It is lunacy that NHS employers currently believe outsourcing will save money for the NHS, when private companies are bringing services back to this country because of problems and customer dissatisfaction.”

She claimed the plan could increase the chances of mistakes and diganosis errors and questioned whether patients would cosent to the plan.

Andrew Furlong, consultant orthopaedic surgeon and divisional director for planned care at Leicester’s Hospitals, said: “All too often the length of time it has been taking for our clinic letters to reach a GP is clinically unacceptable. We needed to find a way of getting that clinical information typed and on its way to a GP within 48 hours of a patient’s appointment, whilst facing the fact that each year we have to provide our services on less and less money.

“Using an external provider to type our letters means they will be quicker, cost less and be of a consistently high quality. What’s more, as our medical secretaries will no longer be typing they will be able to focus on supporting patients, as well as clinicians.

“The only difference a patient will see is a quicker letter and a secretary with more time to help.”