UNISON has slammed public health chiefs who blamed the spread of coronavirus in hospitals on doctors and nurses.

The “slap in the face” memo – seen by the Glasgow Times and which was circulated among staff at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital – told health workers that Covid was spreading as a result of what bosses called a failure to follow the social distancing rules while on breaks.

The letter said: “While you are in the ward, you are wearing appropriate PPE for a clinical setting however in social settings the spread of the virus in changing rooms, rest rooms, car-sharing and through social interaction areas is now very clear.”

But the public sector union blasted “disconnected” managers who they said did not understand the realities of working on the front lines.

Matt McLaughlin, a regional organiser for Unison, said: “Unison members working in NHS Glasgow are acutely aware of the risks of Covid, it is those members who have worked tirelessly on the frontline since March with no immediate end in sight.

“This letter is an example of how disconnected the management in NHS Glasgow is from the workforce. It is a slap in the face for NHS workers and will simply further demoralise an already tired workforce.”

Staff were told off for allegedly failing to follow the rules and reminded of their “duty of care” obligations to colleagues, patients and their families.

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The letter was signed by Frances McLinden, Wesley Stuart and Morag Gardner, the south sector’s director, chief of medicine and chief nurse, respectively.

Its authors said that while they recognised the importance of social interaction in keeping up staff morale, it was essential for staff to follow health and safety rules around physical distancing, wearing PPE and hygiene, claiming these guidelines were not being followed by workers.

The letter said: “Please don’t give the virus the opportunity to spread by even a brief lapse in concentration, we need to be on our guard at all times.

“We fully recognise how busy and difficult it has been for everyone dealing with this current surge and we are extremely grateful to all colleagues here.”

Staff were also reminded to turn off their contact tracing app while in work.

This is in line with the government’s guidance for the Covid tracking device, which says that healthcare workers in proper PPE should turn the app off in work due to the risk of false-positive alerts.

A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde emphasised the importance of following government guidelines to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

He said: “We would like to thank all of our staff for their tireless efforts to respond to the pandemic. It is testament to their ongoing hard work that we’re able to continue treating COVID and non-COVID patients during this time.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have been encouraging staff across all our sites to adhere to the latest social distancing guidelines while at home and at work.

“We know this can be difficult and appreciate our staff must be able to relax with colleagues during breaks etc, and especially those who have already been wearing PPE for long periods.

“However, it is really important they continue to observe the appropriate use of PPE, extended use of face masks and coverings as well as social distancing at all times to minimise the spread of the virus.

“We will continue to share messaging and guidance through regular briefings and via internal communications channels, with particular emphasis on keeping our patients and colleagues safe.”