As ministers prepare to launch a virus hotline this week, staff at the centres last night laid bare the chaos behind the preparations.
They said hundreds of people with few English language skills and no medical training will join the 1,500 team taking calls from the public.
Paid the minimum wage of just under £6 an hour, one worker branded the selection process and the lack of training “a complete joke”
. An insider involved in recruiting staff claimed hundreds of immigrants were being signed up to offer a swine flu diagnosis to the public because the posts had to be filled quickly.
The source said they would only be given very brief training, adding: “If it wasn’t for a serious reason, it would be so funny. It’s a nightmare. A lot of immigrants, hundreds of them, are applying who can hardly talk any English but because we’re desperate to find a lot of people in such a short amount of time we’re taking them on.
“As long as they can provide proof of their date of birth, they can get through the recruitment process. When I speak to them on the phone they can barely understand what I’m saying and even those who can speak English are very difficult to understand.
“It seems we’re just going to recruit as many as possible to reach the target of 1,500 before the end of this week.
“The saddest and silliest aspect of the recruitment process is that the Job Centres say they can’t help because they’ve not got enough people on their books with experience of manning telephone lines.”