STAFF at Great Western Hospital have been suspended for allegedly playing the internet craze, the ‘lying down game’ in uniform and while on duty, the Adver can reveal.

Seven of the 18 staff suspected of being involved remain suspended on full pay following the alleged incident which is said to have taken place during a night shift on August 14 into August 15.

A source told the Adver, doctors and nurses from the hospital’s Accident and Emergency department and Acute Assessment Unit photographed each other lying face down on resuscitation trollies, ward floors and on the Wiltshire Air Ambulance heli-pad.

The pictures were then posted on social networking site Facebook where hospital management spotted them and hauled in the 18 ‘players’, the source said.

Great Western Hospital NHS Trust demanded Facebook removed the ‘Secret Swindon Emergency Department Group’ where the offending images were on show, the insider added.

The source said the last week had been ‘a nightmare’ for those suspended.

The source also claimed agency nurses have been doing the clinical shifts as staff refused to cover for their colleagues in protest at the suspensions – although this has been denied by Great Western Hospital management.

“It’s a right mess,” said the source, who works for NHS Swindon, “It’s been a nightmare week for them.

“The person who started it is really worried. It reflects badly on the department.

“It’s all very hushed up at the hospital and some may lose their jobs.”

To play the game, contestants must lie face down with the palms of their hands flat against their sides and the tips of their toes pointing at the ground.

The random act of lying down in busy places is designed to confuse people and contestants are awarded extra kudos the more people are involved and the more unusual and public the location.

The medical worker, who said they were working on the night of the game but did not take part, claims the players broke health and safety and infection control regulations “It’s a worldwide game so I heard,” the source said.

“It was just some nurses and doctors on nights having fun, but photos got onto Facebook and management found out. Someone in the department leaked the group, but no-one knows who.

“Health and safety and infection control issues have all been broken.

“I’m really not sure what the outcome will be. I think it’ll be serious for the one who set up the Facebook group and took the photos. I’m really glad I didn’t get involved.”

Swindon’s Local Involvement Network (LINk), which represents the thoughts of patients and the public in the town, said it was concerned by the behaviour of staff at the hospital.

Jo Osario, spokesman for Swindon LINk, said: “We are disappointed to hear of this kind of behaviour taking place at the hospital but are confident hospital management are dealing with it appropriately.”

Great Western Hospital has confirmed that health and safety and infection control regulations had been broken as a result of the prank, as well as the NHS professional code of conduct and the Trust’s code of conduct.

A spokesman has refused to rule out potential sackings, telling the Adver: “The disciplinary hearings are yet to take place and we cannot predict the outcome.”

In a statement to the Adver, Dr Alf Troughton, medical director of Great Western Hospital NHS Trust, said: “A number of staff were suspended following allegations of unprofessional conduct while on night shift duty in the hospital during a weekend in August.

“This did not involve patients and we are satisfied that at no time was patient care compromised.

“The Great Western Hospital sets high standards for staff behaviour at all times and therefore takes any such breaches extremely seriously.

“It is important to reassure patients and our workforce that this was an isolated incident and staff cover was maintained at all times.

“The allegations have been thoroughly investigated and seven members of staff remain suspended pending formal disciplinary hearings.”