Biomedical scientists, who have been on the frontline of Covid-19 testing at a Lancashire NHS trust, will stop doing night, weekend and late shifts as part of a month-long strike action after ‘bad faith’ by bosses who reneged on an upgrading pay agreement.

Unite the union warned that the impact could mean the accident and emergency department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital will close at night and weekends.

Unite said that its 21 members working for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust were owed back pay of between several hundred pounds to £8,000, as managers had failed to honour an agreement to upgrade them from band 5 to band 6 on the Agenda for Change (AfC) scale.

The back pay issue goes back as far as 2010 for some members.

Now the scientists, who analyse patient blood samples at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and the Burnley General Teaching Hospital will strike continuously from Friday 7 May until Friday 4 June, after they voted by a majority of 85 per cent for strike action.

This will mean that they will only work on their core days – Monday to Friday from 08:45 to 17:00 and early shifts on core days (Monday to Friday) from 07:00 to 15:00.

They are also contracted to work night, weekend and late shifts – but they will be striking during those times.

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “Our biomedical scientists, who have had years of training and are highly skilled, have voted overwhelmingly for strike action which will adversely impact on how quickly patients’ samples can be analysed.

“It may mean that the accident and emergency department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital will have to close at night and weekends and ambulances with patients sent to other hospitals across the region, as there will be no one on duty to analyse samples. (Burnley General Teaching Hospital does not have an A&E department).”

“Now is the time for the trust management to do the right thing before strike action starts – Unite’s door is open for constructive talks at any time.”

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