Hundreds of temporary jobs to go as Covid megalab in Leamington ‘scales down’ operation
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Hundreds of temporary jobs at set to go at the Rosalind Franklin Covid megalab in Leamington due to a major ‘scaling back’ of the site’s operations.
From yesterday (Tuesday January 17) the laboratory, at the former Wolsley buildings off Tachbrook Road/Queensway, ceased to process PCR tests for COVID-19 "in response to reduced demand”, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.
And this will mean that 650 of the 700 temporary jobs are axed with around 50 retained to support ongoing maintenance at the site.
A statement from the UKHSA says: “This change is possible thanks to vaccines and lateral flow tests continuing to help keep people safe and reducing the current need for PCR testing.
“Now that the number of PCR tests has reduced significantly, processing can be undertaken by existing NHS laboratories.
"The laboratory was processing around 75,000 tests per day at its peak, but this has now dropped significantly.”
The UKHSA has also said it can scale up PCR testing quickly if required – for example, if a new concerning variant meant increased PCR testing was necessary or in the event of a future pandemic.
Options for the future use of the facility are now being considered.
Oliver Munn, Chief Operating Officer for COVID-19 testing at UKHSA, said: "I am very grateful to the staff at the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory whose skill and dedication have contributed to saving lives and helping the nation recover from the pandemic.
“The lab was built and became operational at record pace, with the first test samples being processed on 25 June 2021, just six months after building work began.
"Critically, it was able to contribute to testing during the winter of 2021 when the Omicron variant was at its peak.
“The lab has processed over 8.5 million samples since its opening and has played a huge role in protecting the nation.
"UKHSA and its contractors will be working with affected staff to support them through the change.”
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western has been critical of the laboratory since its opening, originally due to take place in January 2021, was delayed by six months and its cost, which was twice its initial £588m budget - as understood by an investigation by ‘The Independent’ newspaper.
Mr Western has said that members of staff had contacted him to raise issues of poor management including the removal of night shifts resulting in significant pay reductions and a promised retention bonus being cancelled weeks before it was due to be paid.
Mr Western said: “I have been raising the issues with the Rosalind Franklin Laboratory for two years given it was a project shrouded in mystery.
“I am deeply concerned that the long-suffering staff working at the laboratory, many of whom have raised their significant concerns with me, are now facing losing their jobs.
“This is awful at any time but particularly as we face this cost of living crisis.
"I have called for a statement to Parliament and written to the Health Secretary in order to shed some light on the decisions which have led to this mess.”