A UNION says it is fielding calls from distressed hospital workers in Carlisle and Whitehaven who say they are not being given the protective equipment they need to protect themselves from Covid-19.

Temporary nursing staff in particular have complained about what they say is a lack of equipment, said Carlisle based GMB regional official Dan Gow.

In a letter to the NHS trust which manages both Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, Mr Gow says: “We are receiving a large number of calls from members who are distressed at the lack of masks, etc.

“Many are also saying what is provided is not adequate as they are only the paper tissue masks. Bank [nursing] staff are saying they are not being face fitted and feel they are being treated differently to full time staff. Complaints range from staff being told not to wear masks as this could frighten patients and senior staff stating they have been there 30 years and not caught anything.

“Our members fear and anxiety at this time for themselves and their families is immense and they are desperately seeking the personal protective equipment to keep safe. Employment Law and Health & Safety Legislation has not been put away and locked in a cupboard...it is more important that it is followed than ever.”

A trust spokeswoman recognised that staff are “understandably anxious” about the national supply and guidance for use of all personal protective equipment (PPE), including the different masks.

“We are working hard to support our staff at this unprecedented time,” she said.

“We have a sufficient supply of routine PPE surgical masks available for our staff and we are closely monitoring our stock regularly.

“We also have sufficient higher level masks for specific use in Covid-19 areas. We are reinforcing the guidance for all our staff.

“We are making sure our staff have the most up to date and correct information based on following the national guidance so they feel safe and confident within their roles during this time.”