Surrey and Sussex NHS secretaries protest over letters

Medical secretaries have protested outside Crawley Hospital amid concerns over the outsourcing of typing letters.

Unison, which organised the protest, said outsourcing patients' letters was a threat to patient confidentiality.

Last year, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS, which also runs the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, unveiled plans to pilot a "digital dictation system".

The trust said secretaries could spend more time with patients and consultants and it was a "safe system".

Voice recognition

Unison spokeswoman Steph Chisana claimed up to 100 redundancies had been talked about, but she said the trust had since told them it was withdrawing redundancy notices and further talks would be held on Friday.

She said the system was flawed and not fit for purpose, money invested in technology and training would be wasted, and extra time required by consultants to proofread letters would incur costs.

The trust's medical director Dr Barbara Bray said she had not been involved in and could not comment on discussions about redundancies, but the trust was evaluating the new system in a "slow, planned, responsible" way.

She said the NHS was working with a company on using voice recognition technology to type letters, which would be checked and signed by doctors.

"We feel there's a role for the medical secretary and we want to make sure that the consultants are supported, but we do need to ensure that we run an efficient service," she said.

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