'We have been left in limbo' says Leamington employee who is still waiting on news for the opening date of town's Covid mega-lab

The worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, has also raised concerns that the operation will be privately run and they will not get the same benefits and perks of an NHS worker

Monday, 7th June 2021, 5:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 5:55 pm

An employee of the Leamington Covid mega-lab has told The Courier that they and many others have been left in limbo over the lengthy delay of the site's opening.

Last month, we ran a story about the 'mystery' surrounding the opening date of the mega-lab which was meant to open in January.The employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said they might not be working in the job until September after they expected to start in March or April.

They have also said that, in their opinion, The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is wrong when it stated that the laboratory will not be privately owned and operated, raising concerns that they and fellow employees will not be getting the same benefits or pensions as those working in the NHS

Mystery still surrounds the opening date of a Covid testing 'mega-lab' planned for Leamington - which is expected to employ about 1,800 people.
Mystery still surrounds the opening date of a Covid testing 'mega-lab' planned for Leamington - which is expected to employ about 1,800 people.

They told the Courier: "I applied to the role due to the current climate meaning I had to take any job going and this one has good pay, plus it was local.

"When I got the job I was delighted as it was my first full time role I’d secured after a depressing year-and-a-half.

"But now everything has changed, not only does it look like I’ll not start work until the autumn, but despite signing up to work for the NHS’s Test & Trace scheme in a difficult but rewarding role in these unique times, I won’t even be rewarded with an NHS pension or perks like the Blue Light scheme (if I even start work at all).

"The DHSC said in its statement in your article that the lab “is not and will not be privately owned or operated” which is I believe is not true.

"I have confirmation via e-mail from a staff member at Blue Arrow (who along with MEDACS is recruiting the staff) that I will not get an NHS pension or any other benefits relating to working with the NHS.

"It’s using MEDACS and Blue Arrow to recruit staff, as well as offering via the Department for Work and Pensions, a specific trainee lab technician role for those on universal credit.

The employee has praised Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western for raising the issues surrounding the mega-lab in Parliament despite him drawing a frustrating blank in the response from Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

They said: "To say we have been left in limbo is entirely accurate.

"It feels as if they have taken advantage of people in unemployment.

"They think if people are being offered a shiny wage they won't say anything."

We have put our own questions to the DHSC about the opening times and who will be running it. Initially they did not reply to us. But when we recently published our article, they sent over a statement - however, it did not answer our specific questions.

The statement read: “The Royal Leamington Spa laboratory will be an essential part of the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities ever created in British history, and is expected to start processing tests soon.

“This new laboratory is being set up by world-leading scientists, with decades of experience, and will expand our testing network, which has already conducted over 174 million tests.

"Recruitment of the laboratory’s workforce is ongoing, with a clear focus on attracting staff from local areas, universities and further education.”

They did also repeat the line that they hoped the laboratory will be still be ready for 'the spring’.

And the department said all of the equipment and skilled lab staff required to operate the lab’s first line are already in place, and teams are currently conducting safety checks and equipment operational assurance as part of the final validation processes before starting to process live tests.