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Union in call to halt plans to cut Birmingham blood testing jobs.

Byline: ALISON DAYANI Health Correspondent

Union leaders are trying to halt controversial plans to cut NHS blood testing jobs in Birmingham and move work to a new "super centre" in Bristol after it emerged lab workers were struggling to cope with extra workloads.

Birmingham National Blood Service processing laboratories, in Vincent Drive, Edgbaston, were set to close next month with work transferred to the new plant at Filton, near Bristol.

But the Unite union claimed it had discovered staff at Bristol were having difficulty coping with extra work that had already been moved from Southampton and Plymouth under the overhaul that has cut 170 jobs.

Owen Granfield, Unite's coordinator for the National Blood Service, said the Filton "super centre" would not take over all of Birmingham's workload next month with testing temporarily transferred three ways between Manchester, Colindale in north London and Brentwood, in Essex, instead.

Mr Granfield said: "This means that blood donated in Birmingham and the West Midlands will be taken on a complex journey across half the country, often only to be returned back to Birmingham which is a major conurbation needing its own blood processing facilities.

"If problems have emerged at Filton, let's call a halt on any more restructuring until we are sure that these very large centres are good value in terms of servicing the needs of patients."

In 2007, the National Blood Service unveiled a drastic strategy of cutbacks and closures that would see more than 600 jobs go over four years, but this was slightly scaled back in January last year after protests from union members.

A National Blood Service spokeswoman said the Filton Centre was achieving very high standards.

"The transfer of blood processing services from Birmingham to Filton is proceeding as planned but around 20 per cent of the processing work from Birmingham will transfer next week," she said.

"The remainder will be phased in over a period of six to eight weeks, as a prudent approach to continuing the provision of high quality services to patients."

The Blood Service has said that Birmingham's blood processing centre was dated and would not meet future standards required to provide efficient, safe, high quality services to patients.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 24, 2009
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