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NHS outsourcing plan exposed | 20.02.2006 10:14 | Workers' Movements | Cambridge

A rumour that more jobs could be outsourced from Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge has been confirmed by Medical Secretarial Stewards.

A rumour that more jobs could be outsourced from Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge has been confirmed by Medical Secretarial Stewards, who have found that the Trust had been approached by a company offering to send typing to the Philippines, with a 24-hour turnaround.

In November 2005 a rumour was circulating that typing of clinic letters was going to be sent overseas for typing. The scheme is to be tested in the Urology Department. Union figures have said the moves are concerning on several levels.

From the position of good practice, there were issues concerning the accuracy of the typing, and also confidentiality. From the recruitment and retention point of view, there was concern that this practice would lead to redundancies amongst medical secretaries, or the devaluation of their function.

From an ethical point of view, there was concern that there may be exploitation of workers in poorer countries. As a result of these and other worries, a letter was sent from three Secretarial Stewards to Richard Sunley, Director of Operations, outlining some possible flaws in the new scheme. As a result a meeting was convened between Richard Sunley and Angela Huxham from the Trust Board, and Martin Booth, Carol Phillips and Carole Proctor from Unison to discuss the matter.

The effect of the suggestion of outsourcing typing would further lower the morale amongst medical secretaries in Addenbrooke’s. Secretaries already feel undervalued, say the union, a fact which is reflected in the problems with recruitment.

Carole Procter, Communications officer for Unison, said: "One of our major concerns was that there were very negative reactions from other Trusts where this system had already been tried. In one Trust the matter is going to arbitration. In several others the pilot trials are not proving to be very accurate.

"The Addenbrooke’s Trust Unison Medical Secretary Stewards therefore approached the Regional Office and have now set up a Regional Group of Unison members who are medical secretaries, representative of virtually all hospitals in the region (one or two still have to provide nominees, and no hospitals have declined to join."

"This group will first of all outline what experiences they have had, if appropriate, of outsourcing. Those who have successfully opposed the measure are invited to tell the group how they went about this, and it is hoped that this interchange of ideas will form a comprehensive report of Outsourcing regionally, if not nationally in the near future. Once the report is prepared, a meeting will be held of the Group, funded by Region, to discuss the best way of dealing with the situation.

"In all of this, we would like to point out that we are not Luddites, and do not oppose measures just for the sake of doing so. We are acutely aware of difficulties in recruiting medical secretarial staff, and are happy to help in looking at ways of resolving the problem. However, we cannot allow decisions of this magnitude to be taken without proper consideration of the implications not only to staff, but to the quality of patient care, and as such feel we have an important contribution to make."

(taken from easf website)
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