A loss-making alternative business structure set up by two trade unions branches out today to offer legal services to thousands of dieticians.

UnionLine, wholly owned by the CWU and GMB trade unions, has joined forces with the British Dietetic Association to create BDA Legal. The new entity will provide a full range of services to more than 9,000 members of the dieticians’ union.

The move comes three years after UnionLine was formed as a 'one stop shop' for union members, during which time the company has grown from 27 staff to a headcount of 90 at its Sheffield base. The organisation has handled thousands of claims and wills on behalf of members but has suffered increasing losses according to its annual accounts.

John Colbert, spokesman for UnionLine, said: 'It is extremely gratifying for us to be able to provide members of BDA with the same legal services that hundreds of thousands of other trade union members access via the model we have begun and passionately believe in.

'We hold a very principled position of maintaining for all of our members in the GMB, CWU and now BDA their ability to retain 100% of any costs awarded to them as paramount to accessing justice.'

Since UnionLine and its equivalant in Scotland began operating, the organisation has dealt with 255,000 calls to its advice line, recorded 27,000 personal injury claims, 11,000 employment claims, drafted 5,294 wills and obtained £24.7m in compensation for members or their family members.

Andy Burman, chief executive of the BDA, said the legal services will increase its offer to members, giving them essential services when they most need them and adding 'real value' to the cost of subscriptions.

Since its foundation, the non-for-profit UnionLine has recorded increased turnover but has struggled to stem losses. According to annual accounts filed with Companies House in February, covering the 12 months up to 31 May 2016, UnionLine recorded an operating loss of £3.45m, compared with £2.9m losses in 2014/15.

Turnover from legal services increased over the same period from £1.6m to £3.6m. At 31 May 2016, the business had 8,380 live personal injury cases with an estimated value of between £4.6m and £7m.

The LLP owed £4.38m to the GMB union and £2.16m to the CWU union at the year end.