Health chiefs defend decision to employ agency workers at Northampton General Hospital

NHS workers protest outside of Northampton General Hospital today over a dispute between pay and working hours.
NHS workers protest outside of Northampton General Hospital today over a dispute between pay and working hours.

Bosses at Northampton General Hospital said they will “vigorously defend” its right to cover the strike action taking place among its blood test scientists.

The Unite union has taken out an injunction against the hospital because it claims the striking pathology workers, who currently number more than 50, have been replaced with agency workers who are setting up firms. Such methods have been used elsewhere to get around laws forbidding the use of agency staff to break lawful strikes.

However NGH said it was prepared to defend its methods as it seeks to maintain a safe service in the absence of the scientists, who have not been back to work for more than three weeks.

A spokeswoman said: “Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust can confirm that its lawyers have received the details of an application by Unite for an injunction preventing it from acting in breach of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003.

“As a result of the industrial action currently being taken by members of Unite, the trust has been forced to source alternative labour in order to maintain the provision and quality of pathology services within the trust.

“The industrial action by Unite is in response to the trust’s desire to bring the terms and conditions of pathology staff in line with nationally-agreed terms.

“The trust is disappointed that Unite have decided to take this legal action and is currently considering its response to the application, but the trust will vigorously defend its right to continue to provide the pathology service via lawful means.”

The blood test scientists have not been back to work for three weeks after refusing to accept an imposed £6,000 cut in out-of-hours pay and a proposal to double their night-time shift patterns.

NGH said it wants to bring their out-of-hours pay in line with other departments as it bids to save millions of pounds.

Originally, the scientists were locked out of work as hospital bosses claimed some could not guarantee what work would or would not be done. They have since gone on official strike.