NHS staff Covid absences double in a week in some areas, data shows

A nurse walks through a Covid ward at King’s College Hospital, London (PA) (PA Wire)
A nurse walks through a Covid ward at King’s College Hospital, London (PA) (PA Wire)

NHS hospital staff absences due to Covid more than doubled in a week across the North East and Yorkshire new figures show.

A total of 8,788 NHS staff at hospital trusts in the region were ill with coronavirus or having to self-isolate on January 2, up 110% on the 4,179 reported on Boxing Day.

The new NHS England figures, published on Friday, also show Covid hospital staff absences in the North West rose by 85% week-on-week from 3,966 to 7,338, while in the Midlands it was up 65% to 7,931, from 4,812.

Covid staff absences at acute trusts rose by 58% week-on-week in the South West, 42% in the South East and 40% in eastern England.

But the lowest rise was in London where the Omicron variant first began to surge, with hospital staff absences due to Covid rising 4% from 4,580 on Boxing Day to 4,765 on January 2.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

But this is still more than four times the 1,174 staff absences due to Covid reported at the beginning of December.

This may suggest the spread of infection in the capital is slowing, but it is too early to say for sure.

Overall there were 39,142 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England who were absent for Covid-related reasons on January 2, up 59% from 24,632 the previous week and more than three times the 12,508 at the start of December.

The figures suggest one in 25 (4%) of NHS staff working in acute hospital trusts are off sick or self-isolating due to Covid, based on NHS Digital monthly workforce data for September for acute trusts – the most recent available.

Royal United Hospitals Bath Foundation Trust had the highest proportion of staff off due to Covid on January 2 based on their September headcount at 10%.

They were followed by Chesterfield Royal Hospital and Homerton University Hospital foundation trusts, both at 9%, then Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust at 7%.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, both the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust and University hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust were the only two acute trusts which had no Covid staff absences on January 2.

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said rising Covid-19 cases are “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.”