Unite slams govt plans for private sector bio-med labs

Private mega lab plans threaten local NHS services and jobs

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Unite, which represents over 100,000 health care workers, has today (February 24) added its voice to warnings that the government’s plans to create a mega laboratory in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, will damage local NHS services.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced the creation of two additional mega laboratories which will be run by private organisations for profit and will undertake NHS diagnostic testing. One of the mega labs will be located in Leamington Spa.

The mega labs are part of the government’s test and trace Covid contract and the responsibility for their roll out has been allocated to Dido Harding. The Leamington mega lab is currently in the process of recruiting workers.

A highly detailed report by the Coventry Keep Our NHS Public campaign exposes how the creation of the Leamington mega lab would damage services to people in Coventry, Warwickshire and further afield.

Unite is highly concerned that there will be a brain drain from local NHS Trusts with junior biomedical and new graduates from Warwick University joining the mega lab, which will create staff shortages and delays to existing services.

The terms and conditions being offered to workers are vastly inferior to those offered in the NHS and Unite also has major misgivings about professional guidance, standards, quality and patient safety.

In addition, the secret manner in which the mega-labs operate raises concerns about the treatment of staff and the quality of their work.

Unite has accused the government of using the Covid-19 pandemic as cover for pushing through the mega lab and that its actions are a stab in the back to NHS biomedical scientists who are working round the clock to provide lab samples, including for Covid-19.

“This is an important report as it lays bare how the mega lab will undermine NHS services in Warwickshire and Coventry,” commented Unite regional officer Su Lowe.

“Unite, which represents biomedical scientists, believes that it is disgraceful how the government is using the Covid pandemic as cover to force through the creation of the mega labs.

“The NHS scientists who will be most impacted by the creation of the mega labs are working flat out to protect the health of patients.

“Given the very public failures of the test and trace service which has greatly exacerbated the number of deaths due to Covid-19 in the UK and which has contributed to the need for successive lockdowns. It is frankly shocking that the government still thinks that test and trace is capable of setting up a fully functioning and safe mega lab,” she said.

Lowe concluded, “The bottom line is that the NHS is fully capable of undertaking the work of the mega lab directly. The government has taken a political decision to give this work for private profit and undermine existing NHS services.”

By Barckley Sumner

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