(2) what audit safeguards are in place to monitor the outsourcing of patient correspondence to non-EU countries;
(3) how many hospitals in (a) England, (b) south-east England and (c) Kent have outsourced the typing of patients' correspondence to agencies outside the EU;
(4) what target time has been agreed for the return of correspondence between consultants and general practitioners sent abroad for typing; and what procedures are in place in the event that the target is not met;
(5) what steps have been taken to ensure the maintenance of patient confidentiality in respect of patients' notes outsourced to non-EU countries for typing.
[holding answers for UIN 80817, 80818 and 80819 27 June 2006]: Information is not held centrally on the number of national health service organisations which outsource the typing of patient correspondence and records to agencies outside of the European Union, nor on the accuracy of subsequent medication or diagnosis where this has been done.
NHS organisations are legally responsible for managing the health records of their patients and are required by data protection legislation, reinforced by guidance issued by the Department, to ensure the accuracy and confidentiality of information held within records. They are expected to take appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure this is the case, including the specification of quality standards in contracts for outsourced services and the establishment of appropriate audit safeguards, but compliance remains a local responsibility. Target delivery times and other service performance standards are a matter for negotiation between parties. One of the many benefits of the national programme for information technology is that it will eliminate errors in the transcription of paper notes.