NHS staff Covid absences falling but still higher than before Christmas

·2-min read
Medical staff wearing PPE on a ward for Covid patients at King’s College Hospital, in south east London (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Medical staff wearing PPE on a ward for Covid patients at King’s College Hospital, in south east London (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

Covid-related absences of NHS staff at hospitals in England are continuing to fall, but levels are still higher than before Christmas, new figures show.

An average of 30,375 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were ill with coronavirus or having to self-isolate each day in the week to January 23, according to data from NHS England.

This is down 15% on the average of 35,555 the previous week, but still nearly double the 17,836 average absences in the seven days to December 19.

NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “While it is positive to see more NHS staff back at work, pressure on the NHS is still intense, having seen the busiest week for ambulances taking patients to A&E since the start of December – up almost 2,000 on the week before last – all while pushing to deliver as many routine checks and procedures as possible, including vital diagnostic checks.

“Our staff have already had what feels like a long winter, but despite everything they have had to contend with, they continue to step up as they always do; answering thousands more 111 calls last week than the seven days before, continuing to care for thousands of Covid patients and maintaining non-Covid procedures, and working closely with colleagues in social care to get people out of hospital safely.”

Ambulances parked up outside the accident and emergency department at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Portsmouth (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
Ambulances parked up outside the accident and emergency department at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Portsmouth (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)

The NHS England figures, published on Thursday, also show that the seven-day average number of Covid staff absences at English hospital trusts fell across every region of England in the week to January 23.

The biggest drop was in the North West, with the seven-day average down 25% from 7,485 in the week to January 16 to 5,654 in the seven days to Sunday January 23.

This was followed by London down 22% from 3,810 to 2,961, then the Midlands, down 13% from 8,498 to 7,428.

London was the only region where its most recent seven-day average was lower than the week before Christmas, but it was the first area where the Omicron variant first began to surge.

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