The GMB Union has said that it will ‘stand with NHS workers who face losing their jobs over talking to the media about the government’s coronavirus failings’, according to a spokesperson for the Union.
According to the GMB, NHS England, which has taken over communications in several health trusts, has warned doctors, nurses and other staff will be subject to disciplinary action if they raise with the media health and safety concerns relating to their workplace conditions or patient care, such as a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Earlier, a spokesperson for UNISON said:
‘Social care workers across the country are at breaking point with many being given just plastic aprons and gloves to protect against coronavirus as they support the vulnerable and elderly’.
According to UNISON, care workers have said that some managers are either refusing to issue face masks or are not providing training in how to use them.
‘This has triggered widespread anxiety among staff that they and their families may become infected or they may spread the virus among the people they care for’ a spokesperson for UNISON added.
UNISON said that they have also received reports of some employees being asked to work even if they have underlying health issues and to bring their children in if they cannot get childcare.
In one case cited by UNISON, a care home worker was told he and colleagues would have to nurse residents who become sick despite not being issued with proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
UNISON has said that the careworker concerned told them:
“When I walk through my work doors, it’s as though there’s no such thing as a global pandemic happening on the outside.
“I’m coming home to a 22-month-old every day and am so anxious going to work.
“The managers are even suggesting we take our children in if we can’t find childcare.”
Talking about NHS workers who could face being sacked for blowing the whistle, GMB organiser Helen O’Connor said:
“Just as it seemed the widespread and dangerous culture of gagging clauses and suppressing the voices of NHS workers might be coming to an end, it is now intensifying.
“Accurate and honest information about what is happening inside the NHS is key to getting to grips with this pandemic.
“It is a fact that this virus is causing the untimely deaths of NHS staff and patients.
“It is scandalous that hospital staff who are speaking out publicly because government and NHS trusts are failing them and patients will now be lined up to be sacked by ruthless NHS bosses, who do not want failings in their leadership to be exposed.
“Suppression of information is now not just a matter of democracy; it is now a major public health issue.
“The GMB will continue to protect and defend all of our NHS members and the voices of our members will be heard.”
An NHS spokesperson said:
“Once a major incidents occurs it is vital that the public receive fast, authoritative, open, clear and consistent information from their NHS, which is why in line with longstanding EPRR protocols, official communications are therefore always coordinated nationally.
“But staff continue to speak in a personal, trade union or professional body capacity, and it is self-evident from print and broadcast media coverage throughout this incident that staff are able and do in fact speak freely.”
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