Hospitals under pressure from Covid absences
Latest figures show Covid-related staff absences at hospitals in England have risen sharply since Omicron took hold last month.
The number of workers off sick for Covid reasons trebled from the beginning of December.
The Royal College of Nursing said growing absences meant the situation was “simply not safe.”
Downing Street said Boris Johnson saw no need for further restrictions despite the staff absences, as England’s current measures were “balanced and proportionate”.
Earlier this week, the prime minister said he hoped England could “ride out” the Omicron wave without further restrictions.
Nearly 4% of hospital staff in England were off for Covid reasons each day during the week ending 2 January, equivalent to roughly 36,000 members of staff.
This shows a rise of 41% on the previous week, and treble the 11,957 absences seen at the beginning of the Omicron wave in the week ending 5 December.
Factoring in absences from other illnesses the total off to 9% – nearly double what would normally be seen at this time of year.
However, the national figures mask stark regional differences.
Hospitals in the north of England were hardest hit, with Sheffield’s teaching hospitals missing 11% of staff due to Covid.
In London, where data suggests a slowdown in the Omicron wave after Christmas, staff absences fell very slightly.
Patricia Marquis, from the Royal College of Nursing 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.”
Latest figures show more than one in 15 people in the UK tested positive for Covid in the last week of 2021.
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