The GMB union has warned that an NHS staffing crisis looms after hospital cleaners at multiple south east London trusts have said they are not willing to work without PPE.

Several workers have told the union that they are "not willing to risk their lives on poverty pay", exposing themselves to hospital environments without proper protective equipment.

Masks, gloves and other protective clothing have been a hot topic of debate in recent weeks, with councils and hospitals waiting desperately for new supplies from the Government to arrive.

In Greenwich, the council was forced to appeal to local residents, businesses and schools for PPE for social care workers in order to clear hospital beds for Covid-19 patients.

Now, as the outbreak rages on and the number of patients in London hospital wards rise, hospital nurses are reporting that agency nurses won't work on coronavirus-hit wards.

GMB said workers were telling them that they were not willing to risk their lives without protection, and returning home.

One London NHS trust will have a shortage of 40 cleaners this weekend increasing the risk of cross infection on the site.  

The GMB warn that current staffing shortages will only worsen as "staffing levels from nurses right through to cleaners are plummeting and workloads increasing."

“We already have a serious recruitment issue in the NHS but this pandemic will worsen it," said GMB organiser Helen O'Connor.

“The NHS is the most risky place to work in this country right now because people are certain to encounter seriously ill Covid-19 patients. 

"The Government must take urgent action to rectify this situation and attract the people we need on the frontlines into the service."

She added: "NHS workers are currently putting their lives on the line. The least they should expect is their pay and protective equipment reflects the huge risks they are taking for all of us.”