Jobs axed at Leeds hospitals EXCLUSIVE

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scores of medical secretary jobs at Leeds hospitals are to be axed as a £1.9m speech recognition system is brought in.

The equivalent of around 90 full-time posts out of 370 are due to go over the next two years.

Hospital bosses have agreed to introduce digital dictation, rather than the current method where a medic records correspondence and notes onto a tape.

Then instead of a secretary transcribing the tape, speech recognition software will be used. This will save £2.2m on pay costs by 2015.

Workforce numbers will be reduced by not replacing staff, with 71 jobs currently vacant. A few workers may have to be redeployed and hospital heads said they were aiming to avoid any compulsory redundancies.

Jacqueline Myers, divisional general manager for oncology and surgery at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, told hospital directors that the technology was used across the country and benefits included

better management of workloads.

It is hoped the scheme will mean letters to patients and GPs can be sent out more quickly.

However fears were raised about accuracy.

Mark Abrahams, non-executive director at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, said: “As far as my experience with voice recognition, it’s still some way from perfection. You still get errors creeping in.

“When you have got things like complicated drugs, if people are going to start dictating these things, a shiver goes down my spine with the opportunity for error.”

But Ms Myers said a secretary would check letters after they had been transcribed and then they would go to the doctor for a further check and signing.

The system also remembers words which have been changed, so it becomes more accurate over time.

Five years ago, the YEP revealed that some medical secretary jobs at LGI and St James’s Hospital were to go as their work was being outsourced to typists in India.

A year on, some departments had stopped using the service amid concerns of “sloppy” work and “avoidable” mistakes.

Three specialties currently use outside transcription and one outsources to a different firm.

Managers looked at outsourcing all transcription but decided it did not save much money and said current experience “demonstrates issues with accuracy”.

Each year, at least 55,000 hours of audio dictation are generated at hospitals in Leeds, which takes around 110,000 hours of secretarial time to transcribe before letters can be approved, printed and distributed.

Medical secretaries spend 70 per cent of their time transcribing and the new digital dictation and speech recognition system would cut the staffing needed for this by 30 per cent.

Bosses agreed to go ahead with installing the system, after checks that it would be compatible with wireless technology.

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