‘Our NHS is under siege!’

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Barts NHS Trust Unite workers on the picket line yesterday, striking over pay and conditions

THERE was a lively and enthusiastic picket of over 50 striking NHS workers at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel east London, yesterday morning.

Speaking to the News Line, Unite rep for the Royal London Ebrima Sonko said: ‘The strike is going well. People just want to be treated fairly. We are striking for 12 days.

‘The work and the harassment from our bosses are not acceptable. We are here to win better pay and conditions. All our demands must be met. We will not give up. It is our right to strike.

‘The NHS is being cut and privatised. We are opposed to that. Safe staffing levels are vital. Our struggle is important.’

Staff in the Unite union from the Pathology department at the Royal London Hospital (RLH) went on strike for three days, joining the action of domestics and other ancillary workers on strike this week and next week.

They say they have been thrust into an impossible position, where suddenly they have been told to accept new shift patterns without their consent.

Khadija, a Biomedical Scientist (BMS) said: ‘Several years ago the pathology departments of haematology and transfusion at Royal London Hospital (RLH) were merged with that of Whipp’s Cross, St Barts and Newham Hospitals.

‘The Homerton path lab was merged 18 months ago.

‘We are looking after the haematology work of all of these hospitals. The RLH became the ‘‘hot lab’’, but they never increased the staffing level.

‘The night shift workers do 12-hour shifts. All the GP work in NE London comes here. It’s a rush all the time.

‘We get thousands of samples from GPs every day. They come in in the afternoon and are dealt with at night.

‘Literally we can get over 3,000 samples at night. If a bleeding patient comes in from a stab wound or an aortic aneurysm who needs urgent transfusion, you have to come back from a break.

‘Now they want to bring haematology specimens from the Lewisham and Queen Elizabeth Woolwich hospital areas as well.

‘We are supposed to have 2 fully qualified BMSs (Bio-Medical Scientists) on AT night, but often the second person is an ‘Annex21’ a grade that is not fully trained and has to be supervised by a BMS.

‘The BMS has to take responsibility for their work on top of their own. Even with two BMSs on the shift, the workload is horrendous. Every day we are exhausted.

‘Recently we lost five staff from haematology and they were not replaced. What’s going to happen when we retire?

‘It’s dangerous every single night. We are running like crazy to made sure the work gets done. There is a lack of training in this place. Staff with child-care issues simply cannot do any shift, any time, so-called ‘‘flexible hours’’.’

The Unite union is planning for further strike action by the pathology staff over these issues, and the general lack of staffing.