Plans by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, and University Hospitals Morecambe Bay NHS Trusts to centralise their laboratory services for Lancashire could put dozens of jobs at risk warned Unite.
Unite, which represents 200 biomedical scientists working in the laboratory services at NHS trusts in Preston, Blackpool and Morecambe Bay is concerned that the plans, which will see the centralising of bloods tests, cancer screening and tissue biopsies, will result in a loss of skills and expertise.
The trusts approved an outline plan earlier this month to centralise many NHS laboratory testing services at a new site to be constructed at Lancaster University, raising concerns about the job security of NHS biomedical scientists based in Preston, Blackpool and Barrow.
As a result of the plans some biomedical scientists will face a round trip commute of up to 120 miles if they want to keep their job when the project is complete in four years’ time.
Unite is also concerned about the budget for the project. The new facility is estimated to cost £30m but it is unclear where the money is to come from, although a bid has gone in to the government’s controversial STP programme.
“These sort of high quality scientific jobs are not exactly plentiful in Blackpool, Barrow and Preston,” said Unite regional officer Andy Ford. “The proposal could significantly affect scientific employment in these areas.”
“We are all in favour of collaboration but not centralisation. The danger of centralisation is that many senior staff are in their fifties and may decide to just retire rather than relocate or commute, while the move would not be worthwhile for lower graded staff. The NHS could find itself with a shiny new building but no-one to work in it.
“The union argues that the case for centralisation remains not proven and that the NHS labs should enter a period of collaboration on IT, procurement and cross training before looking at a large scale and costly new build.”
Unite is calling for a sustained period of collaboration before detailed plans are made for a huge shake up of NHS laboratories in the county with all the risks this involves.