Union official brands decision to cut 300 jobs at medicines regulator as ‘sheer lunacy’

Plans to cut around 300 jobs at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are “sheer lunacy”, a union official has said.

The UK’s medical regulator aims to reduce its workforce by 20% in response to challenges posed by Brexit, financial pressures and supporting Government policy.

Staff were informed in February that the agency would be “transforming” the way it operates, with discussions involving unions ongoing and a formal consultation process due to be concluded in the late autumn.

Trade union Unite, which represents some workers at the agency, claimed the plans raised “serious concerns” about whether the job cuts would “compromise or slow down” the MHRA’s ability to approve new or modified Covid-19 vaccines.

Unite national officer Caren Evans (pictured) said: “This is sheer lunacy, the work of the MHRA has never been more important or more high-profile.

“To be cutting staff at a time when it is absolutely crucial that the MRHA is able to quickly and correctly decide whether vaccines can or can’t receive a UK licence is beyond belief.

“The workers at the MHRA are the unsung heroes of the pandemic, their work and dedication should be lauded but instead they fear for their futures.

“Unite is now seeking an urgent meeting to find out what the redundancy programme means for our members and to seek copper bottomed reassurances that the critical work performed by the MRHA will not be compromised or beset by delays.”

The MHRA, an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care, is the British regulator of medicines and medical devices, ensuring their safety, quality and effectiveness.

It employs a workforce of more than 1,200 people and has facilities in London, York and South Mimms, Hertfordshire.

A spokesperson for the agency said: “We announced to our staff in February that we are transforming the way the Agency operates.

“This transformation is in response to four challenges: the UK exiting Europe (with a consequent reduction in the fee income we receive); our role in enabling the Life Sciences strategy; the recent Cumberlege review which recommended that we focus on patients in all our activities; and financial pressures.

“We will continue to be a world-class regulator that delivers the right outcomes for patients, while we modernise the services we provide to industry, and remain financially stable.

“The transformation will lead to a reduction in our workforce of around 20% which is approximately 300 roles. This reduction will take into account the different functions across the Agency.

“We will be making savings in our operating costs, as well as redeploying and retraining our staff in new areas of regulation and science.

“We are currently in discussion with staff and unions and a formal consultation process will be concluded in the late autumn.”

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