by Helen Rae, The Journal
Apr 2 2011
BLOOD workers have been told that Newcastle’s testing laboratory will close, in a move that critics claim will put lives at risk.
The NHS Blood and Transplant Service (NHSBT) informed staff that it will shut its microbiology testing laboratory based at the city’s Barrack Road.
All blood testing will be transferred to Manchester in a move that will affect a total of 16 jobs.
Union officials say they fear the closure could put lives at risk as blood will have to travel hundreds of miles and deliveries could be subject to delays in cases of roadworks and traffic congestion.
Scores of protesters gathered outside the centre yesterday to campaign against the decision and join in with the TUC’s All Together for the NHS campaign that took place at cities across the country.
Beverly Easton, Unison’s Northern Blood Centre branch secretary, said: “We believe the changes to move the testing laboratory from Newcastle to Manchester is a step that the Government and our board of directors cannot afford to take.
“Their radical cuts will devastate the service which the NHS Blood and Transplant provides to our local hospitals and patients. We want to keep our recognised world service.
“We cannot do this on our own. We need all blood donors and potential donors and the people of the North East to tell the Government that if they move forward with these proposals they will be responsible for cutting the life blood of the NHS.”
Mother-of-two Tandy Pickering, 45, a blood collection nurse, said: “I’m very, very proud to work for the Newcastle Blood Centre as it delivers an outstanding quality of service.
“By moving the testing laboratory to Manchester it will affect the timescale in which blood is tested.”
The cost-cutting measures also impact Sheffield’s blood testing laboratory which will also close. Employees at both sites say they are concerned about the lack of contingency plans in place if the Manchester site is unable to function correctly.
But the NHSBT says that change is necessary and insist they will do all they can to support staff.
A spokesperson for NHSBT said: “This change will impact approximately 40 existing posts – 24 in Sheffield and 16 in Newcastle. It would likely create up to an additional 19 posts in Manchester. NHSBT will do everything possible to support impacted staff, including redeploying them wherever possible and will work in partnership with unions throughout this process.
“NHSBT is very aware of the state of public finances and the likely constraints that our customers will be required to work within over the next few years mean that we have to identify and develop opportunities and initiatives that will drive out further improvements and efficiencies.
“These changes only affect routine blood donation testing. Following the transfer, the same blood stock levels will continue to be held in Newcastle and therefore hospitals will not see any change in the service they receive from NHSBT.”
The transfer of work and disestablishment of roles is expected to be completed by the end of November this year, with full decommissioning due to be completed by the end of January 2012.
The Newcastle centre was threatened four years ago after the NHSBT planned to shift work to three super centres but was saved following a review of the plans.
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