BOSSES at Carlisle’s main psychiatric clinic have been accused of putting patients at risk by asking healthcare staff with suspected coronavirus symptoms to continue working.

A healthcare assistant says that he feared vulnerable patients at the Carleton Clinic could be exposed to possible infection after his initial telephone request to self-isolate because his partner displayed Covid-19 symptoms was turned down.

He also spoke of staff who had the symptoms being asked to continue going to work.

The man said his time off request was even refused after he pointed out his partner’s illness meant she would have to care for their young child - who was in an at-risk category because of a pre-existing illness.

In an exclusive News & Star interview, the healthcare assistant claimed he had seen staff at the Clinic who were clearly displaying Covid-19 symptoms continuing to work with patients.

He was finally allowed to self-isolate at home after he revealed that his representative at the GMB union in Carlisle was supporting his request.

The worker said: “The official advice is that anybody who is living with a person who is showing symptoms of the virus should self-isolate for 14 days but when I rang up the number that the trust has for absence issues they told me I should go to work.

“They told me I could wash my hands and clothes when I got in; but I explained there was no way I could leave our child at home with my partner as the primary carer when she was showing symptoms.

“Last year, our child had an illness which left him vulnerable.

“The woman I was speaking to said I could book into a hotel. I told her that was ridiculous; that she wasn’t listening. I have a vulnerable person at home and I am not coming into work.”

The man said he rang the trust again and explained he had sought advice from his union the GMB. From that moment on, he said, the attitude of those dealing with his request changed.

He said he saw colleagues asked to stay at work despite being unwell. One with symptoms was told to keep working and two days was diagnosed with Covid-19, he said.

The healthcare assistant added: “I was on shift with two workers who had family members showing symptoms and one colleague who had three of the symptoms - the cough, a temperature, and no sense of taste. We work with vulnerable patients.”

Gary O’Hare, in charge of nursing at the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are working incredibly hard to ensure our staff are given the right advice about attending work, whilst interpreting changing advice for healthcare workers during this unprecedented and rapidly changing environment.

“We have introduced a dedicated absence and advice line for our staff which adheres to national guidance and enables us to co-ordinate our workforce so we can provide safe and effective services to those in our care.”