'Biggest shake-up of pathology services in decades'

Unite calls for public review over plans for mega blood sample centre in Lancashire

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There needs to be a proper public consultation for a new mega centre to analyse blood samples from Lancashire and South Cumbria, as the proposal will mean longer waiting times for patients to get their results.

Unite the union said that the only rationale for concentrating the laboratory services from four NHS trusts in one place – currently Samlesbury in South Ribble is the favoured candidate – is to sell it off to the private sector.

Unite said that the Lancashire and South Cumbria Pathology Collaboration had failed to consult either the public or the region’s GPs, and that ‘all dissenting voices had been shut out of the discussions’. The hospital consultants were also against the plans.

Unite, which represents about 600 biomedical scientists who would be affected, claimed that already up to £3 million of taxpayers’ money had been spent on staff to manage the proposed new centre, but ‘absolutely nothing was happening’.

That was why, said the union, ‘a proper transparent review of the plans is urgently needed’.

Unite said that about 1,500 staff working for the four trusts would be affected. The trusts are: Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust; Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said, “What we have here is the biggest shake-up of pathology services in the region for decades and it is being slipped through under the radar without proper public scrutiny and without consultation with the NHS professionals who would have to implement these changes.

“This is not a clinically-led decision, but one based on the prospect of privatisation of the new centre, currently earmarked for Samlesbury – which would be another disastrous example of the accelerating privatisation of the NHS by profit-hungry healthcare companies,” he added.

“The lack of public consultation is breath-taking in its arrogance as even the region’s GPs have not been informed of the implications for patients.

“Because of the extra distances the samples would have to travel, it will mean longer waiting times for anxious patients to receive the results of their blood samples – and that can’t be right,” Hutson continued.

“Unite is calling for the fullest consultation by NHS bosses of the public’s views and those of healthcare staff, up to 1,500 of whom could be affected by these plans.

“We also want to end the current culture where any dissenting voices with legitimate concerns are shut out of discussions.”

By Shaun Noble

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