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Pathology staff protest shift changes at King George and Queen's hospitals

PUBLISHED: 17:00 23 July 2019 | UPDATED: 07:16 24 July 2019

Staff from BHRUT's pathology department protesting at King George Hospital, the proposed changes to their shift system on Monday, July 22. Picture: Ucheoma Ugoji

Staff from BHRUT's pathology department protesting at King George Hospital, the proposed changes to their shift system on Monday, July 22. Picture: Ucheoma Ugoji

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Biomedical scientists are planning to take industrial action against the NHS trust that runs King George and Queen's hospitals following a dispute over shift changes.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University NHS Hospital Trust (BHRUT) currently operates a system of voluntary overtime to cover additional shifts for its pathology staff.

This means that in addition to their salary, staff can earn up to £2,000 extra a month.

Following a consultation in 2017, BHRUT is planning to change the pathology's current on-call system to a seven day a week shift system.

Unite the Union claims that the change will cost its members £10,000 a year in income.

BHRUT staff held a protest against the changes at Queen's Hospital in Rom Valley Way on Monday, July 15 and another at King George Hospital in Goodmayes Lane on Monday, July 22.

Ruth Hydon, Unite's regional officer based in Dagenham, told the Recorder that Unite had a near unanimous vote to take industrial action against BHRUT on Monday.

She said: "The main issue is around pay protection and how the trust is consulting.

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"If an employer changes your job there's pay protection in place that retains your pay.

"But now the trust is trying to change pay protection and they've not been able to agree it with any unions.

Ruth continued: "There are also concerns about the skill mix available on site, patient safety and how annual leave will be managed.

"The uncertainty must be pretty unbearable for people with children who will have to consider childcare once the new system is implemented."

BHRUT insists that the change is not about cost saving and that as the current on-call system depends on the availability and disposition of staff, it represents a risk.

In regards to pay, the trust says the claim biomedical scientists will lose £10,000 a year is misleading as these sums are voluntary.

Chris Brown, interim chief executive at BHRUT, 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 are introducing will ensure we have the right staffing cover and reduces the risks from not being able to get the right staff, particularly out of hours and at weekends.

"We've been clear and consistent that this was our intention for over two years, and I know that most of our staff acknowledge this is the best way to care for our patients.

"We have encouraged all our staff to share any concerns and will continue to talk with them about how we can support them through flexible working or in other ways."

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