OPINION - More patients, fewer staff as London hospitals call in the army

·2-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

More patients, fewer staff. That’s the reality in London’s hospitals and across the country as the Omicron wave continues to rip through the population.

It also makes real a long-standing fear among scientists and policymakers. That while the Omicron variant may be less severe than Delta (but the WHO warns not to call it ‘mild’), its sheer transmissibility means the NHS could still be overwhelmed.

Staff absences within the health service have reached critical levels. As our Health Editor Ross Lydall reports, approximately 10,000 hospital staff a day in the capital are absent from work at present.

A total of 70,175 sick days were claimed in London’s 22 frontline NHS trusts in the seven days to Sunday – of which 35,835 were due to Covid illness or isolation. Nationally there were more than 562,000 absences in the most recent week.

There’s a similar story in schools, where our Education Editor Anna Davis reports that more than a third of school leaders are experiencing staff absence levels of over 10 per cent. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT union, has warned that schools are “teetering on the edge”.

Meanwhile, 200 military personnel are being deployed across the capital’s hospitals.

By the way, from driving ambulances to staffing vaccination sites and responding to severe floods (oh don’t forget providing security at the 2012 Olympics following the G4S debacle) – is there any crisis or major event of recent years in which we haven’t been forced to call on the army? And what does that say about the resilience of the British state?

Elsewhere in the paper, the St James’s Park pelicans have been moved from public view amid a bird flu outbreak in the south-west of England which has infected one person.

In the comment pages, Emily Sheffield writes that it’s time for London’s unvaccinated to pay with their freedoms, not ours. While Matt Majendie warns that unless Novak Djokovic gets injected, he will increasingly find himself ejected from elite-level tennis.

And finally, from Cabaret to Circolo Popolare, check out London’s must-see sights (according to Chrissy Teigen and John Legend).

Have a lovely weekend.

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