BLOOD test analysts at the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust are to take industrial action which they claim could close Blackburn's accident and emergency unit at night and weekends.

The partial strike by biomedical scientists is part of a long-running pay dispute.

Their union Unite claims the trust has backtracked on a 2019 agreement to upgrade the 21 staff to a higher grade on their specialist pay scale.

They analyse patient blood samples at the Royal Blackburn and the Burnley General Teaching Hospitals.

After an 85 per cent vote for industrial action the scientists will stop doing night, weekend and late shifts for a month.

They will only work on their core days – Monday to Friday from 8.45am to 5pm and early shifts from 7am to 3pm from May 7 until June 4.

Kate Quinn from the trust said any industrial action would not affect emergency care at the Royal Blackburn and said many staff had been regraded.

She added where there was dispute, the cases were in an appeal process to be completed shortly.

Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said after the upgrade was agreed with the trust in 2019 it was put ‘on hold’ as an act of goodwill during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “Our biomedical scientists, who have had years of training and are highly skilled, have voted overwhelmingly for strike action which will adversely impact on how quickly patients’ samples can be analysed.

“It may mean that the accident and emergency department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital will have to close at night and weekends and ambulances with patients sent to other hospitals across the region.

“The trust management has behaved with bad faith.

“We are not prepared to see our members forego back pay which, in some cases, amounts up to £8,000. This issue has been a running sore since 2010.

“Now is the time for the trust management to do the right thing.”

Ms Quinn, operational director of human resources at ELHT said: “A collective grievance regarding pay banding was raised by some of our biomedical scientists some time ago.

"In an attempt to resolve this dispute the Trust agreed it was fair those involved should be rebanded, which they now have been backdated to May 1 2019. The Trust also agreed any claims for further back pay would be dealt with on an individual basis. The outcome of an appeal against the decision not to award back pay is imminent.

“I would like to reassure our patients this will not impact our delivery of emergency care services at all. Should this action go ahead, we have ensured that all urgent tests will still be processed in the usual timely manner.”