STRIKING biomedical scientists at East Lancashire hospitals are set to continue their dispute and say the NHS has refused their offer of talks.

Unite the Union, which represents the 21 scientists striking at Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals, says that a further month of strike action will be held from 21 June to 28 July, following on the current strike action that started on 31 May and ends on 21 June.

The dispute began after Unite said that its 21 members were owed back pay of between several hundred pounds to £8,000.

Unite deputy regional secretary Debbie Brannan said: “We are dealing with a trust management steeped in a culture of macho management and hubris who would prefer to spend tens of thousands of pounds of hard-pressed taxpayers’ money undermining this strike, rather than pay the upgrade they themselves agreed to in 2019, there is no logic to their position.

“We have offered on numerous occasions to sit down and talk, including under the auspices of Acas, to resolve this dispute, but, so far, we have had no response from the trust.

"The public, who have given our members magnificent support, will find this refusal to talk inexplicable at a time of national crisis.

“The irony of this dispute is that the 2019 agreement was aimed at dealing with the ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis in the biomedical scientist profession.

“We have announced a further month of strike action which will end on 28 July.

"If the dispute is not settled by then, we will reballot for strike action that could see this dispute go into the autumn.

“Unite’s door for talks is open 24/7, we invite the trust management to walk through that door what are they waiting for?”

However, East Lancashire Health Trust has said that its employees have in fact been rebanded from band five to band six on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale and that any claims for further back pay would be considered on an individual basis.

Kate Quinn, Operational Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said: “This action is the latest phase of an ongoing dispute between the Trust and some of our Biomedical Scientists, which has been a long and difficult process for all involved.

“I would like to reassure members of the public and our colleagues that our Emergency Care services will continue to be provided during this course of action. Contingency measures will be in place to ensure that all urgent tests will be processed in the usual timely manner."

“The wellbeing of our workforce is also of the utmost importance and we are supporting all of our colleagues who are directly or indirectly affected by the industrial action.”