8 September 2021

Unions write to health secretary over job losses

At least 20% of staff at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which licenses Covid-19 vaccines in the UK, are threatened with job cuts.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka has written a joint letter with the general secretaries of Prospect, FDA, UCU and the assistant general secretary of Unite, to Sajid Javid, secretary of state for health and social care. This is in response to the announcement of staff cuts of at least 20% at MHRA.

The staff cuts are a result of the loss of income from EU workstreams and the government’s failure to replace that funding or introduce a sustainable financial model.

Vital role during pandemic

The letter says: “In recent months ministers have rightly praised staff at the MHRA for the way in which they have responded to the pandemic. It was thanks to the dedication and hard work of our members that the vaccines were able to be approved swiftly and batch-released so that the vaccination drive could begin rapidly and with confidence, not to mention the approval of other medicines for the prevention and treatment of acute Covid-19 infection, testing kits and ventilators.”

The staff cuts are despite the increased workload of the agency because of the UK’s exit from the European Union. Staff at the MHRA are highly skilled and the unions believe the cuts will lead to an exodus of talented staff and the quality of our regulatory decisions may suffer as a result.

The letter asks the minister to meet with the unions and to intervene as part of next month's spending review to provide the MHRA with the necessary short-term funding to enable a meaningful review of functions, structure and financial sustainability, without imposing drastic staffing cuts at the same time.