IT staff jobs at risk in cuts to NHS Blood Service

  • 17 October 2006

Staff who have been developing and implementing a new blood tracking systems for the NHS Blood Service designed to improve patient safety have told E-Health Insider they have been warned they could soon be out of a job.

Two weeks ago, Peter Garwood, head of the NHS Blood Service, announced that the 14 existing centres are to be replaced with new super centres in Bristol and unnamed locations in the South East and the North.

One systems developer, who wished to remain anonymous, told EHI: “We have effectively been told to prepare to relocate outside of London or be made redundant by the service. We have been working on improvements to the blood tracking systems for over a year now, and all the centres have dedicated staff to hold workshops.

“Relocating the centres will cause a significant delay in our ability to help trusts in our area process and store results. We spend a lot of our time training staff, who are not always IT literate and struggle to understand the systems – personally, I think this could go as far as putting patient lives at risk.”

His colleague, who also asked to remain anonymous, added: “We were taken on as graduates and promised good vocational training. Now all of this is being thrown into question, with relocation plans, and as issues like vein-to-vein audit trails are so specific, we don’t know what job opportunities are left for us if these proposals go ahead.”

Public sector trade union Amicus has warned that it is preparing to ballot for industrial action in the service over the potential closures.

Amicus say the proposed reorganisation threatens centres in Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Plymouth, Southampton, Tooting, Colindale, Brentwood, Oxford and Cambridge, and threatens the loss of hundreds of staff. In addition they warn that major cities may be left without facilities for the testing and processing of blood.

Amicus’ National Officer for Health, Kevin Coyne told EHI: “This mirrors exactly what is wrong with the NHS reform agenda. Hundreds of technical and scientific staff jobs are being put at risk and these highly skilled jobs cannot just be recruited or relocated to different parts of the country.

“The NHS and the nation has invested millions in training these staff and now proposes to just dispose of them. The geographical gaps in service will also mean delays for many thousands of people, putting lives at risk and making the service dependent upon a charity – air ambulances, in emergencies as motorways cannot be relied upon.”

The DH told EHI it will publish a full modernisation strategy next month, but the changes were necessary to make the blood service more efficient, as some laboratories are almost 40 years old.

Compulsory redundancies would be avoided where possible and every attempt will be made to ensure IT is not affected, they added.

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