BANK nurses could opt out of hospital shifts because they are only entitled to statutory sick pay if they develop coronavirus, union leaders have warned.

Matt McClaughlin, regional organiser for Unison Scotland, said agency workers, in common with other staff, are likely to be exposed to the virus “in significant numbers."

He said bank staff, who help prop up the NHS, may decide they are not available for work because they are treated, “less favourably than permanent staff" in employee rights such as sick pay allowance.

One Glasgow bank nurse called on the government to increase payments, “at least until the threat has been lifted.”

In response, the Scottish Government said it will be issuing guidance to hospital managers on pay policy related to COVID-19, which will include bank staff.

READ MORE: Glasgow hospitals step up plan to tackle coronavirus surge 

The bank nurse said: “Teachers, who have more paid holidays than anyone in Scotland would get full sick pay if their schools were to close due to coronavirus or even just the potential threat of coronavirus.

“Contrast that to a hard-working bank-nurse in the front line who actually is helping, caring and dealing with patients in Glasgow hospitals with coronavirus- they would be expected to feed their families on statutory sick pay if they contracted this virus at work.

“And Bank-nurses would not have a choice if they are told to redeploy to a ward with coronavirus patients. 

"Surely the Scottish government could direct GGCNHS to bring up the statutory sick-pay to full sick pay for bank workers working in our hospitals if only until the threat has been lifted."

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is stepping up contingency plans to deal with a possible surge in cases including putting arrangements in place at major hospitals to allow managers to  increase critical care capacity. Patients could also receive consultations in their own homes via a video link.

READ MORE: Rangers issue coronavirus update ahead of Bayern Leverkusen and Celtic clashes 

Matt McClaughlin, of Unison Scotland, said: “As far as we are aware NHSGGC Bank workers who become unwell with Coronavirus will be entitled to the same SSP benefits as other workers in the UK. 

“For many this will seem unfair, particularly as nurses are likely to be exposed in significant numbers if the outbreak becomes significant and so they will be more likely to catch the virus, even with precautionary measures and protective equipment. 

“Unison is concerned that many of these bank/zero hours nurses will simply decide that they are not available for work, if they run the risk of becoming unwell and then are penalised because the service treats them less favourably than it does permanent staff.”

“What this does is underline just how precarious the staffing levels in our NHS are."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said staffing will be kept under constant review and added: "“We will be issuing guidance for staff and managers on absence and pay policy in relation to COVID-19, as soon as is practicable, which will include Bank staff.

"This is in addition guidance for all staff on how to minimise contact with suspected patients and what infection control precautions to take to minimise risk of infection to them.”