Nurses across Britain are getting high and passing out while treating prisoners who have taken the drug Spice.
Medical staff are being put at risk by the epidemic in use of the potent synthetic cannabis in jails with some treating 50 inmates a week.
The Royal College of Nursing is calling for more protection for medics as rules currently require them to rush in a cell before the smoke has cleared.
It heard that in at least one case a nurse was taken to A&E after being knocked unconscious by the psychoactive fumes.
Many report feeling unable to drive home after their shift.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Spice poses a serious threat to nurses, healthcare assistants and prison staff whose safety and long-term health is being put at risk day in, day out.
“Prison nursing staff are expected to offer high quality care but they should not be expected to put their own wellbeing on the line to deliver it.
“I have heard some truly shocking stories of nursing staff passing out or being unable to drive after exposure to Spice.
“The scale of this problem demands swift and effective action from HM Prison & Probation Service.
“We would like to see an urgent review of the guidance that properly reflects the risks posed by this extremely dangerous drug.”
The Prison Officers Association has said the spice epidemic in jails is beyond crisis point and needs a Government inquiry.
Use of the drug is widespread because it is potent and cheap.
Last month Tees, Esk & Wear Valley NHS Trust withdrew nursing staff from Holme House prison in County Durham due to the risk posed by spice.
Staff were withdrawn from the prison where inmates smoking spliffs caused 376 medical emergencies in the last year.
Staff reported feeling a burning sensation in the head, feeling like it was covered in nits, after being exposed to the drug.
One anonymous nurse said: “Recently we’ve had to give medical care to over 50 people in one week.
“Walking back after attending to a patient, I’ve suddenly felt dizzy, nauseous. It’s almost like the world has zoomed out.
“It’s really bizarre. I’ve sat in my car in the carpark for 50 minutes after work so I feel confident enough to drive. We’re all worried about driving in case it’s not safe or we get stopped and it shows in our system.”
“If this happened in a hospital, there would be uproar and investigation after investigation. I feel like it’s being swept under the carpet.
“There’s not enough being done.”
The RCN has written to HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) calling on prison bosses to do more to protect nurses.
Spice is made up of a range of amphetamines and other laboratory-created chemicals. It can cause vomiting, seizures, hallucinations and severe psychotic episodes.
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