About 1,000 blood samples for patients in East London had to be redone because of cost-cutting to the computer systems, Unite, the largest union in the country, has claimed.
Unite understands that NHS London is holding an inquiry into why patients, some of whom could be suffering from serious conditions, had to submit a second sample to the Whipps Cross University Automated Blood Sciences department, part of Barts Health NHS Trust. The union said that the inquiry should be ‘open and transparent’.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, believes that financial cheese-paring in the recent change-over in the computer systems caused the chaos for worried patients.
Barts Health has a savings target of £78 million in 2013/14.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “A new computer system was installed at the end of March. However, the new system caused a delay in processing samples sent in by GPs.
“At the end of the first week, the process was two days behind schedule. The delay meant that samples became unsuitable for analysis because of deterioration.
“Between 26 March and 19 April, it is estimated that 1,000 samples could not be processed as a result. Patients had to be recalled to give new samples, with the delays for many worried people who may have serious conditions.
“The system has now been adapted so that samples go through an initial process to prevent deterioration, but there are still delays in results being made available - between 24 and 48 hours longer than under the previous system.
“Staff were consulted on the introduction of the new computer system and their professional view was that the two systems needed to be run in tandem for a period to safeguard the service. This was rejected by the trust’s managers on the grounds of cost.
“The underlying problems in the department are a lack of equipment and qualified staff.
“It is clear that financial cost-cutting by the trust is directly responsible for the chaos and upset caused to patients. More generally, the coalition’s so-called £20 billion of NHS efficiency savings has created this scandalous climate of penny pinching.
“NHS London needs to carry out a thorough and transparent investigation, with the aim that this never happens again.”
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.