Workers fighting to buy at-risk St Albans pill packing unit

THE FUTURE of a pill packing unit in St Albans looks bleak despite attempts made by the workers to purchase the business.

Cllr Chris Brazier, who has been vocal in his support for the workers affected by the closure of the unit on Highfield Lane used by the Pharmaceutical Packing and Assembly Service (PPAS), said that West Herts Hospital Trust (WHHT) are dismissing real concerns about the closure of the site.

As ward councillor, he says workers who live in the area will lose jobs and that the trust’s claims that the closure is justified lacks conviction.

Now he has learnt that the workers are trying to purchase the unit, but could struggle to meet the initial costs, even though the service itself would enable them to be self-funding.

Cllr Brazier said: “The unit actually has a licence and complies with modern standards, so why the Trust is now claiming it requires significant investment and that it’s old is difficult to understand.

“The claims that staff will be found alternative employment is misleading. As I understand it, there is one position available.”

Cllr Brazier said he is angry that the council’s planning officers are working with the trust on a planning application for homes on the site. “The trust is trying to add value to the land prior to selling it to the developers. The money will help them cut its budget deficit.

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“Claiming that jobs will be saved is misleading the planning department – it isn’t relocating this service, it is shutting it down. The trust should be told that the developer should apply for planning permission, after they have purchased the land.”

WHHT continues to insist that considerable financial investment is required. A spokesperson for the trust said: “The trust has a duty to its patients and staff to ensure that its resources are used to provide efficient, effective and safe patient services.

“Therefore, following an in-depth feasibility study which concluded that considerable financial investment was required, the trust board made the difficult decision to close the PPAS Unit rather than risk public money on a non-commercially viable service.”

The spokesperson said the trust had a legal obligation to ensure that best value for money is achieved and confirmed it was in discussion with workers regarding the purchase of the PPAS Unit.

He added that every effort was being made to redeploy staff and that a number had been offered alternative employment options. The trust will, he reiterated, look for suitable employment for the other staff in line with the trust’s Management of Change policy.