Unions are challenging a deal made by Lanarkshire Acute trust in Scotland which will see holiday leave stopped for three months during the move to two private finance initiative sites.

Under a£170m scheme, services at Hairmyres Hospital, Wishaw Hospital and Monklands Hospital will be transferred to two PFI sites at Hairmyres and Wishaw.

Hospital general manager David Hume said restrictions on staff - which stop all leave between 8 January and 31 March 2001 - were designed to ensure the move went smoothly, and ensure all staff were 'inducted and re-trained for the new infrastructure, design and equipment'.

There will be just 14 wards at the new Hairmyres site, compared to the 40 currently provided. Leave will also be restricted for four months at Wishaw Hospital and Law Hospital, also part of the trust, while Monklands Hospital will restrict leave for two months.

Mr Hume described the move as a once-in-alifetime event which required extraordinary circumstances.

The local agreement made between the trust and staffside representatives stopping the leave has been challenged by Unison head of health Jim Devine, who met with management on Monday to discuss the transfer and ensure pay and conditions of all staff are maintained after the transfer.

Mr Devine said: 'They are reducing nursing figures from 800 to 600, beds are being reduced by 104, and the skill-mix is changing, with over 300 support staff under threat of the privatising of their jobs. '

Mr Hume said: 'Leave will be allowed under extenuating circumstances' but many staff members have expressed concern that such a decision will, of necessity, be up to individual managers.

One nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, said: 'There is a lot of uncertainty about the holidays and the move itself. Obviously any change makes people feel uncomfortable but there is a feeling that we are being asked to give up our leave for what is, after all, a long time.

'We're not sure why such a lot of time off needs to be restricted. '