PATHOLOGY staff at King’s College and Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals are today striking against privatisation at all three hospitals between 9am and 5pm.
Pathology staff were balloted for strike action over the looming transfer threat to Serco-linked private healthcare firm Viapath.
Their union, Unite, warned that the transfer of more than 700 NHS laboratory staff from Guy’s, St Thomas’ and King’s College hospitals to private firm Viapath on 1st January 2015 is a ‘patient safety time bomb’, that marks the full-scale privatisation of the hospitals’ pathology services.
Unite said: ‘Viapath which took over pathology management at the hospitals four years ago has been beset by problems and complaints, including accusations of poor management and bullying. Last year, an audit revealed Viapath may have overcharged the hospitals by over £1 million.
‘Unite is calling for the 1st January transfer of NHS staff to be stopped and for pathology services at all three hospitals be brought back into the NHS with immediate effect.’
Unite regional health officer Sarah Cook said: ‘It is an utter scandal that a highly skilled and dedicated workforce is being forced out of the NHS into the hands of a Serco-linked private company with such an appalling track record. We fear that this will lead to a race to the bottom in pay and terms and conditions.
‘Since Viapath’s takeover of pathology management important services, such as the toxicology laboratory have been closed, and repairs and upgrades of equipment are slow or non-existent.
‘A culture of bullying and poor management has led to the mass exodus of skilled NHS staff with staff turnover rising from 7.9 per cent under the NHS to over 24 per cent.’
Frank Wood, Unite representative at King’s College Hospital, said: ‘The past four years of private sector management have transformed two of the UK’s best pathology labs into costly disasters. To press ahead with the transfer of more than 700 staff is a patient safety time bomb.
‘Over 90 pathology staff have written a whistleblowing letter to the trust board highlighting their concerns about the service. They are awaiting an official management response.
‘Unite is calling for the transfer to be stopped and that pathology services at all three hospitals be brought back into the NHS. Unite believes only fully publicly owned and run pathology services can guarantee a safe service for patients.’
The NHS scientists have been holding protests outside St Thomas’ Hospital against the staff transfer. They believe it poses a danger to patient safety and will possibly lead to the failure of pathology services at the hospital.