More than 70 members of staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) have tested positive for COVID-19, it has been claimed.
Anthony Costello, a former director of the World Health Organization (WHO), tweeted that he had been sent an email detailing the outbreak at the world-renowned children’s hospital in London.
Costello said 73 out of 181 members of staff had been infected with the illness, while another 318 were off sick.
An informant tells me "social distancing in the hospital is a fiction. Whatever the inadequacies of PPE for patient contact my concern is about the use of masks in non-clinical hospital areas. Many team members do handovers in a small office space without the use of masks.” (2)— Anthony Costello (@globalhlthtwit) April 2, 2020
There are more than 4,000 members of staff who deal with more than 268,000 patient appointments every year, according to the GOSH website.
In a series of tweets, Costello cited a source that claimed "social distancing in the hospital is a fiction”.
The informant is quoted as saying: “Nurses, doctors, admin, cleaners are expressly discouraged from wearing masks around the hospital.
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“Is our cultural reluctance to wear masks an error? Staff will be happy to bring their own masks from the chemist if given permission.”
Yahoo News UK has contacted GOSH for a comment.
The issue of personal protective equipment (PPE) for NHS staff has been at the centre of the coronavirus crisis, with some hospitals warning they will have to limit services over concerns of shortages.
It comes as some leading trade unions warned the lack of PPE is a "crisis within a crisis".
Global shortages of PPE have led to shortfalls on the NHS frontline.
The government has made assurances that millions of pieces of kit have been delivered across the country, and staff with concerns can call a national helpline.
But GP magazine Pulse reported that some who have called the hotline have been told to buy kit "through their usual suppliers".
At least one GP practice has ordered face shields on Amazon in a bid to protect its staff when the regular supply chain failed.
On Monday, Gateshead Foundation NHS Trust issued a plea on social media asking for local businesses to donate protective equipment.
Seven trade unions outlined how staff are being forced to risk their lives and face disciplinary action if they speak out.
Unison, the Royal College of Midwives, GMB, Unite, TUC, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the British Dietetic Association released a joint statement saying: "It is now clear that the lack of PPE for front-line workers has become a crisis within a crisis.
"Workers are being exposed to unreasonable and unnecessary risk by the ongoing failure to provide key workers with adequate PPE.
"Every day we hear from our members that despite repeated assurances from Government, people are being asked to work with inadequate or out of date protective equipment - and that is where PPE is being provided at all.
"Key workers deserve better. They are risking their own health and safety for us.
"We must be clear what that means. Those who are subject to prolonged and direct exposure to the virus – such as health and social care professionals – are risking their lives."
They added that workers are being gagged against speaking out over concerns or face disciplinary action if they refuse to undertake activities without appropriate PPE.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said earlier: "I acknowledge that those on the front line have faced a very unsatisfactory situation in some cases where they haven't had the specific supplies they need or the reassurance that they will be available in just a couple of days' time because stocks were reducing in the healthcare setting in which they work."
He said there is a "military operation" ongoing to move stocks around the country and national distribution companies are also being used to "get the stocks out in a more organised and sustainable way".
He added: "But there are settings that I know of who have either not received the equipment that they need or who are concerned that their stocks are running low and our task is to get the materials out to those people now."
Global construction equipment manufacturer JCB has donated 8,000 pairs of gloves and boxes of masks to a Staffordshire-based NHS hospitals trust, after a plea from a former employee.
The vital PPE has been shipped from the digger-builder's Uttoxeter plant to the University Hospitals of North Midlands trust, which operates sites in Stoke and Stafford, JCB said.
Tata Steel's Port Talbot plant in South Wales has also delivered a van load of masks, gloves, aprons and shoe covers to staff at Swansea Bay University Health Board.