'Significant victory for common sense'

Plans by NHS bosses to create a super lab in North West shelved after three-year campaign by Unite

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Proposals to create a new super NHS laboratory in the North West by closing local sites, which could have led to delays in analysing patient samples, have been halted after a three-year campaign spearheaded by Unite the union.

Unite hailed as ‘a significant victory for common sense’ the decision by the Pathology Collaboration Trust board to pause the TUPE transfer process involving 200 biomedical scientists and stop all progress on the hub building, earmarked for Samlesbury, Lancashire.

But Unite hit out at more than £6m of taxpayers’ money shelled out on consultants to prepare the business case to secure funding from NHS England, which never materialised.

It would have meant the labs at Barrow in Furness, Blackburn, Blackpool, Kendal, Lancaster and Preston being merged into one super lab which, Unite argued, would cause delays in testing samples and a detrimental impact on the estimated 1.5m people the hub was intended to serve. It would have been too remote from GP practices and hospitals. There were also fears that it could have been sold off to a private healthcare company.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Thanks to our members’ dedication, this senseless plan has been seen off.  Unite will always defend our NHS services and campaign against the prospect of them being snapped up by the private sector.

“It is shameful that this process has allowed consultants to walk off with £6 million of the public’s money at a time when the NHS is stretched to breaking point. The people who were in charge must be held accountable for this flagrant waste of time and money.”

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson added, “Unite was proud to have spearheaded this campaign which involved in taking on four NHS trusts.  The most disappointing factor was the pathology collaboration trust spending millions of pounds of public money to employ specialist consultants to prepare a business case for funding by NHS England, but that move came to nought.

“We urge the board to work with Unite and our members as we work to ensure job stability and the continuation of this excellent service and keep our NHS safe in public hands.”

By Shaun Noble

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