NHS staff Covid absences dropping across every region in England, data shows

·3-min read
A member of staff wearing PPE walks through a ward for Covid patients at King’s College Hospital, in south east London (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
A member of staff wearing PPE walks through a ward for Covid patients at King’s College Hospital, in south east London (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

The number of NHS staff at hospital trusts in England off work due to Covid has dropped week on week across every region of England, new figures show.

Some 29,517 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were ill with coronavirus or having to self-isolate on January 16, down 26% on the 40,031 the previous week.

But this is still more than double the 12,508 at the start of December, according to NHS England data.

The figures suggest one in 33 (3%) of NHS staff working in acute hospital trusts were off sick or self-isolating due to Covid on January 16, based on NHS Digital monthly workforce data for September for acute trusts, the most recent available.

University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and University Hospitals of Derby and Burton Foundation Trust had the highest proportion of staff off due to Covid on January 16 based on their September headcount, all at 7%.

Only four of the 135 hospital trusts that submitted data reported a week-on-week rise in Covid absences as of January 16.

These were Whittington Health NHS Trust, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn Foundation Trust, Wye Valley NHS Trust and Warrington and Halton Hospitals Foundation Trust.

The figures, published on Thursday, show the number of NHS hospital staff ill with coronavirus or having to self-isolate due to Covid had fallen week-on-week across every region of England.

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

The largest percentage drop was in the North East and Yorkshire, down 33% from 8,125 on January 9 to 5,430 on January 16.

It was followed by the South West where 2,037 staff at hospital trusts were absent due to Covid on January 16, down 32% week on week from 2,974, and then London at 2,949, down 29% week on week from 4,167.

But NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said that despite the drop staff will face many “tough months” ahead.

He added: “Even though the numbers are going in the right direction, NHS staff will have many tough months ahead as they continue to deliver patient care while managing competing demands.

“While staff absences remain high and continue to increase in some parts of the country, it is good to see they have been reducing week on week.

“Despite everything they have to manage, hardworking staff continue to provide routine care to patients, including rising numbers of routine checks, and they are determined to do more, so the public can help us by coming forward for care when they need it and getting their life saving Covid-19 jabs.”

Overall, there were 68,871 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England who were absent for all sickness reasons on January 16 including self-isolation, down 15% on the 80,824 previous week, but still up 15% from 60,136 at the start of December.

NHS hospital staff absences fell week-on-week across all England’s seven regions: down 19% in the North East and Yorkshire, and 16% across London, the North West and the South West.

Hospital trust staff absences fell by 12% in eastern England and the Midlands, and 8% in the South East.

Patricia Marquis, Royal College of Nursing director for England, said: “These figures are no grounds for complacency.

“Our members remain under intense pressure and the data shows the level of staff absence is still very high with bed occupancy rates showing little sign of declining.

“Nursing staff are facing huge seasonal pressures, with tens of thousands of vacancies, an enormous backlog and no end in sight.”

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