Coronavirus: Plymouth 111 call centre staff 'terrified to go to work'

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image captionMP Luke Pollard said he was told there was no deep cleaning of working spaces at the Sitel office

A Plymouth MP has demanded "immediate" action at an NHS 111 call centre in the city amid claims that staff are "terrified to go to work".

Luke Pollard has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying social distancing was being ignored for up to 200 staff on the Sitel Group office

He said there were reports that staff had been told to come in despite family members showing coronavirus symptoms.

Sitel and the Department for Health have been asked to comment.

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image captionSitel has directed staff to follow stricter social distancing after another report that space at one of its offices had been "maxed out" due to new recruits

Mr Pollard, shadow Environment Secretary, listed a series of "urgent concerns", saying numerous workers told him that up to 200 staff were working close together "desk to desk" on one floor.

He also said he was told there was no deep cleaning of working spaces.

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Mr Pollard is demanding that staff at NHS 111 call centres are allowed to work from home.

"From the conversations I have had with people who work on this service I believe that these practices go against your advice on social distancing and increase the chance for the virus to spread in this environment," he wrote to Mr Hancock.

"A coronavirus outbreak at this call centre would be devastating for the UK's response to the pandemic and could result in more deaths in the long term."

Earlier this week, Sitel Group directed staff to follow stricter social distancing after a reported claim that space at one of its offices had been "maxed out" due to new recruits.

An employee at one of Sitel's two sites in Stratford-on-Avon said break rooms had been crowded and some staff recruited to the helpline had been given only about an hour's training on guiding documents.

A Sitel spokesman said those allegations were "categorically untrue" and it had been "ramping up measures to protect our staff against infection, implementing social spacing as recommended and staff being asked to sanitise their hands when they enter and leave the building".

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