Patients at Northampton General Hospital are facing delays of more than six hours for blood test results as inexperienced staff take on the work of locked-out scientists, union bosses claim.
Unite members who voted for industrial action short of strike - including bans on overtime and out-of-hours working - said they can guarantee results in two hours, or sooner if requested by the casualty department.
Despite turning up at the hospital prepared to work to rule, the 78 pathology scientists say they have been locked out since Thursday and the replacment staff’s inexperience has created a backlog of work.
Further safety fears have been sparked by reports that managers, acting as cover in the pathology department, have been working around the clock after being asked to sign forms to opt out of the limit on the 48-hour working week.
Mick Orpin, a Unite regional officer, said: “The management at Northampton General Hospital is acting dangerously and recklessly by denying patients the skill and expertise of professional biomedical scientists. It is playing Russian roulette with patient safety.
“Patients have been left waiting for many hours in stressful situations for their test results when under the Unite action they would be guaranteed a result in two hours and sooner, if requested by casualty.
“It’s the first time in living memory that NHS workers have been banned from entering the workplace for exercising their legal right to take action.
Mr Orpin said members were “understandably anxious and upset” at the prospect of losing up to £6,000 a year and of having their work-life balance “thrown into disarray” under the new contracts. He called on hospital bosses to sit down and negotiate in a meaningful way.
The new contracts will see workers double their night shifts from seven days in 14 weeks to 14 days in 14 weeks, while out-of-hours payments are cut by 80 per cent.
A typical biomedical scientist earns between £21,000-£35,000-a-year and will have a university degree, often Masters’ degrees, plus additional post graduate training and many years’ experience.