Number of NHS staff off due to Covid surges by 59% in a week

The number of NHS staff off work due to Covid has risen by 59 per cent in a week, the latest data shows.

The military said it could offer assistance to more hospitals around the UK if needed after about 200 personnel were drafted in to help the NHS in London, which has led the Omicron wave sweeping the country.

It comes as NHS England data shows 39,142 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for Covid-19 reasons on 2 January up 59 per cent on the previous week (24,632) and more than three times the number at the start of December (12,508).

The figures suggest one in 25 (4 per cent of) NHS staff working in acute hospital trusts are off sick or self-isolating due to Covid.

This 4 per cent is based on NHS Digital monthly workforce data for September for acute trusts, which is the most recent available.

The latest data shows in northwest England, 7,338 NHS staff at hospital trusts were absent due to Covid-19 on 2 January, up 85 per cent week-on-week from 3,966, while in northeast England and Yorkshire there were 8,788 absences, more than double the number a week earlier (4,179).

In London, absences were up 4 per cent week-on-week, from 4,580 to 4,765.

Overall, there were 82,384 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England who were absent for all sickness reasons on 2 January, including self-isolation and mental health reasons, up 21 per cent on the previous week (68,082) and up 37 per cent from the start of December (60,136).

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said rising Covid-19 cases were “piling even more pressure” on hospital trust workers.

He said: “Omicron means more patients to treat and fewer staff to treat them.

“In fact, around 10,000 more colleagues across the NHS were absent each day last week compared with the previous seven days and almost half of all absences are now down to Covid.

“While we don’t know the full scale of the potential impact this new strain will have, it’s clear it spreads more easily and, as a result, Covid cases in hospitals are the highest they’ve been since February last year – piling even more pressure on hard-working staff.

“Those staff are stepping up as they always do; answering a quarter more 111 calls last week than the week before, dealing with an increasing number of ambulance call outs, and working closely with colleagues in social care to get people out of hospital safely.”

Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s director for England, said: “Outside of healthcare, staffing shortages are closing shops and cancelling trains but nurses can’t stop helping their patients.

“Instead, they find themselves spread thinner and thinner, but they can’t keep spinning plates indefinitely either – this situation is simply not safe.”

According to the Health Service Journal (HSJ), staff absences across the entire NHS, including mental health trusts and other areas, for any reason including Covid-19, may be as high as 120,000.

Earlier, Air Commodore John Lyle told BBC Breakfast the military was on hand to offer its support.

He said: “We can’t really forecast too far ahead, but certainly, throughout this current surge, we know that it’s particularly difficult in London at the minute but we are aware that this is impacting all across the United Kingdom.

“And so we remain in discussions and there are a number of areas where we’re looking at the potential for more assistance.

“So, over the coming weeks or months, I think we’ll learn a lot from how the progress is made through London and potentially there could be further military support required in other areas.”

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the deployment in London includes 40 military medics and 160 general duty personnel to help fill gaps caused by absences of NHS staff.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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