The introduction of wireless tagging such as RFID technology in the NHS could result in job losses due to the removal of administrative burdens, according to consultants Wireless Healthcare.

The new report published by the company into the advance of wireless technology, ‘Selling Wireless Tagging To The Healthcare Sector’, argues that while the new systems could greatly improve efficiency within several areas of healthcare, such as in medication management and patient safety, any automation will inevitably lead to a reduction in administrative staff.

The report argues that while the public’s attention is focussed on wireless tagging as being a potential violation of personal privacy, job cuts are a far more likely and dramatic outcome.

“The refusal to accept that it is possible to automate some clinical processes is preventing the healthcare sector from entering the twenty-first century," said Peter Kruger, senior analyst at Wireless Healthcare.

If processes such as medicine stock control and data verification were automated through the use of RFID tags, administrative jobs could be put at risk. This would come on top of any administrative cuts that might result from the rollout of NPfIT and the automation of processes such as electronic referrals.

Some uses for RFID suggested by the report already use in industry, could supply added benefits to healthcare rather that causing any loss of jobs – but definitely could be accused by some of eroding privacy.

For instance, a system used in McDonald’s restaurants in the US that uses RFID to make sure that staff wash their hands after they use the toilet could be adapted for use in the NHS to verify that clinicians wash their hands between patients.

“While some clinicians may feel this level of monitoring smacks of Big Brother,” said Peter Kruger, “in practice it would alert the health worker to a potential problem before a patient comes to harm."