Hospital workers are going on strike for a week over new shift patterns which union members say could lose them up to £10,000 a year.

Pathologists at King George and Queen’s hospitals are striking over a planned move from the present ‘on call’ system to a seven day a week shift system

The biomedical scientists, who provide sample testing services to the Ilford and Romford hospitals, will be on strike from November 4 – 10.

During this period the drop-in blood testing clinics at Queen’s and King George hospitals will be closed.

Patients who need urgent tests are being advised by Barking Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), who run the hospitals, to contact their GP.

Unite Union, which represents the pathologists, labelled the new shift system due to launch on Monday “a mess” claiming several shifts were not covered.

Unite says staff have been rostered on days they had told the trust they cannot work and called for BHRUT to put the new system on hold.

The union also contends its members could lose up to £10,000 a year in ‘on call’ payments.

BHRUT says only a few members of staff will be affected and since the current system is voluntary, the financial loss will vary dependent upon the amount of overtime staff undertake.

The trust has also agreed a pay protection scheme for 18 months for affected staff to ease the reduction in pay.

BHRUT says the new 24/7 shift system will deliver safer care to its patients, as well as bring it into line with other trusts.

Currently the trust runs a voluntary overtime ‘on call’ system.

Hospital bosses say this represents a risk to patients as it is dependent on the availability of staff.

Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said: “Our members are faced with an intransigent hardline management which refuses to enter into mature and constructive negotiations with Unite.

“Now our members have reluctantly decided to take a week’s strike action against plans to cut their pay by £10,000 a year and which will lead to an unsafe service for patients.

“Unfortunately, it will mean that hundreds of patients’ samples will be delayed which we deeply regret, but our members feel that they have been pushed against the wall by the bosses.

“Responsibility for this dispute lies squarely with trust executives who have failed to meaningfully consult Unite members about these changes.

Chris Bown, BHRUT interim chief executive, said: “Our number one priority is providing our patients with a safe, high quality service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The changes we’re introducing will ensure we have the right staffing cover and reduce the risk of not being able to get the right staff, particularly out of hours.

“We know that most of our staff acknowledge this is the best way to care for our patients, therefore we are disappointed that the union has implemented strike action, despite our continued efforts to engage with them.”

Clinics where patient’s blood can be taken are open as usual – you can find out where these are located on the Trust’s website.