A response from the Department of Health and Social Care to local MP Matt Western has insisted that the new Leamington Spa “mega-lab” is “publicly owned and operated,” despite staff being recruited by private companies Medacs and Sodexo.

However there is no claim that they will be NHS employees: Sodexo have been advertising jobs under ‘NHS Test and Trace,’ and offering only fixed term contracts, making no mention of NHS terms and conditions, NHS Pensions, or UKAS accreditation. There has been no explanation of why the new lab could not be run, and staff employed, by the neighbouring University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire.

The DHCS statement also claims that “the new laboratory is being set up by leaders of science with decades of experience,” although this is clearly at variance with the issues raised by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IMBS) whose President Allan Hall told The Lowdown in January:

“It is a concern that instead of working with the professional bodies and the existing pathology community to explore how these new mass testing labs could be staffed and run as extensions of the existing pathology labs, the government has chosen to engage with a recruitment agency [Medacs] with no pathology experience.”

“It is vital that these labs have an appropriate skill mix and include significant numbers of HCPC [Health and Care Professions Council] registered Biomedical and Clinical Scientists.  We would not allow unregistered staff to run care in clinical settings such as medicine, nursing or radiography – why are labs being viewed as “different”?

The new lab will run 24/7 and employ 1,800 full time staff, but there are apparently no jobs advertised for Biomedical Scientists.

Local campaigners fear that lab might offer higher hourly rates, aiming to poach NHS professionals from NHS trusts in the region – although any staff who left the NHS to work there would give up their NHS pensions, sick pay, holidays, training and permanent contracts.

A campaign is needed to recruit the staff into trade unions and to secure NHS terms and conditions.

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