Biomedical scientists in East Lancashire to walk out over patient safety

Members of Unite working in the Blood Sciences Department at the East Lancashire Hospital Trust (ELHT) will take industrial action as a result of dangerously low staffing levels.

Biomedical scientists at two hospitals (in Blackburn and Burnley) have been escalating their dispute with the ELHT since February this year. Having been promised an increase in staffing which has failed to materialise they will now take part in strike action on 12 separate occasions in November through to February 2024.

Staff numbers in the unit, which provides blood sample analysis and blood products for the entire hospital and wider GP services in East Lancashire, have dwindled over two decades. Meanwhile, blood sample work has increased every year leading to unsafe conditions that threaten patient safety.

The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that staff reported their own employer to the Medicines and Health Regulatory Authority (MHRA). A survey in March by the MHRA found low levels of staffing which the ELHT acknowledged but failed to rectify. Staff have also lodged unhappiness at the lack of training and career opportunities as well as an ever-increasing workload.

Examples of unsafe practices include:

  • Training and competencies not being kept up to date due to lack of staff available and no training officer

  • The issue of lack of indemnity raised to the trust for over a year presenting a significant risk in regard to liability

  • Staffing below recommended minimum levels

  • Commitments made in 2019 regarding training and support have not been fulfilled

  • High sickness levels due to stress and overwork

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “This is a shocking indictment of a health trust that has abjectly failed to recruit much-needed staff. The situation is now dire and patient safety is at risk. The ELHT needs to pull its socks up and sort out this mess.”

“Unite always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and the biomedical scientists at ELHT have the union’s unflinching support.”

Unite regional officer Imran Akram added: “Our members are highly skilled biomedical scientists performing a critical role for patients. But for over 10 years the ELHT have failed to review staffing levels and patients’ lives are now at risk.

“Despite repeated appeals for action nothing has been done and our members have been left with no choice but to down tools and head to the picket line.”