Whistleblower alleges swine-flu call centre staff use alcohol and drugs

Temporary workers in swine flu call centres have been diagnosing patients while under the influence of cannabis and alcohol, a former worker has claimed.

Ashleigh Venus, an 18-year-old who started work at a call centre in the north of England after three hours’ training, said patients were being put at risk because staff did not receive enough training, the Daily Mail has reported.

The former worker said many staff – some as young as 16 – did not take the job seriously and in some cases supervision was so poor that staff ate pizza and played board games while speaking to worried patients on the phone.

She added that some staff brought in Vodka disguised as water to drink as they answered calls, and a few smoked cannabis during their breaks.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Experienced on-call operators are trained for a minimum of three hours. Less experienced call operators receive a day’s training. All call centre agents are trained by NHS Direct personnel. Clinical on-call support will be avilable to the call centres.

“If people are not receiving this training or facilities are not up to the required standard it is a breach of contract and action can be taken. Strict industry standard regulations are in place when employing staff, including satisfactory employment and character references.”

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