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Blood testing clinics at Queen's and King George Hospitals closed next week as biomedical scientists go out on strike

PUBLISHED: 14:34 30 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:31 31 October 2019

The blood testing departments at Queen's and King George Hospitals will be closed next week to protect patients' safety while some biomedical scientists go out on strike in a row over new shift patterns.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which runs both hospitals, announced today (Wednesday, October 30) that it will be closing the service to focus on running a safe service for inpatients and those brought into its emergency departments during the strike action.

That means that from Monday November 4 to Sunday November 10 drop-in blood testing clinics at Queen's Hospital in Rom Valley Way, Romford, and King George Hospital in Barley Lane, Goodmayes will be closed.

The dispute revolves around the introduction of a new 24/7 shift pattern at BHRUT's pathology department, where previously the trust had operated a voluntary overtime system.

Unite the Union announced earlier this month that 88 of its members working as biomedical scientists at both hospitals had been balloted and 87pc voted in favour of industrial action.

But BHRUT insists the change is necessary to "help the trust to provide safer care to its patients, as well as bring it into line with other trusts who already operate this system".

The NHS trust also argued that staff were consulted on the changes two years ago.

Chris Bown, BHRUT's interim chief executive, said: "Our number one priority is providing our patients with a safe, high quality service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"The changes we're introducing will ensure we have the right staffing cover and reduce the risk of not being able to get the right staff, particularly out of hours.

"We know that most of our staff acknowledge this is the best way to care for our patients, therefore we are disappointed that the union has implemented strike action, despite our continued efforts to engage with them."

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Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon claimed a series of changes to the implementation date of the new system had caused staff "great anxiety".

"Unite has urged the trust to put the new system 'on hold' and meet us to try to resolve the dispute, but management has refused," she added.

"Management doesn't appreciate that our members have childcare and other caring responsibilities, as well as other commitments outside of work, and they have had to repeatedly try to rearrange these when new implementation dates have been announced during this year.

Ms Hydon also pointed out that Unite members would stand to lose £10,000 a year in on-call payments once the new system was introduced.

Queen's Hospital said that as the current system is voluntary, the financial loss varies dependent upon the amount of overtime staff undertake.

"Only a few members of staff will be affected and there will be opportunities for staff to undertake additional shifts should they wish," said a spokeswoman

"We have also agreed a pay protection scheme for 18 months for affected staff to ease the reduction in pay."

Ms Hydon continued: "Unite has always been willing to discuss these issues with the trust, but we have been met with a brick wall of managerial intransigence, hence the ballot for strike action that has now received an overwhelming mandate from our members."

Clinics in the community where your blood can be taken are open as usual - you can find out where these are located at www.bhrhospitals.nhs.uk/blood-tests.

If you think you need an urgent blood test, please speak to your GP who will be able to advise you.

The blood testing departments will reopen at 9am on Monday 11 November.

Oncology, ante-natal and paediatric blood testing services at Queen's Hospital will be open as usual, as well as ante-natal and paediatric service at King George Hospital.

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