Just one in 40 NHS staff left unable to work due to Covid

Just one in 40 frontline NHS staff were unable to work due to Covid late last month, figures show – after NHS England’s medical director spoke of health service being on a ‘war footing’

  • Official figures show only 2.5 per cent of NHS workforce were off due to Covid 
  • Meanwhile absences from non-Covid sickness fell over the same time period 
  • However, the picture was varied between England’s 138 NHS hospital trusts

Just one in 40 NHS hospital staff were unavailable to work because of Covid late last month, official figures show.

Recent media reports have been saturated with warnings that hospital services could collapse because so many staff are either off sick with the virus or having to self- isolate because of it.

NHS England’s medical director Professor Stephen Powis last week talked of the health service being on a ‘war footing’, a phrase since frequently repeated by broadcasters.

But while official figures show the number off with Covid did double in the run-up to Christmas, the virus has prevented only a small fraction of hospital staff from working. 

On December 1, 12,508 staff at English hospitals were absent due to Covid-19 ‘either through sickness or self- isolation’, according to data from NHS England.

While official figures show the number off with Covid did double in the run-up to Christmas, the virus has prevented only a small fraction of hospital staff from working (Pictured: NHS health worker looks on as people wait to receive a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at a pop-up coronavirus vaccination centre at the Redbridge Town Hall, east London on December 25, 2021)

By Boxing Day, the latest day for which figures are available, that had almost doubled to 24,632.

But with 983,000 working in NHS hospitals in England, according to official workforce statistics for 2021, it means that only 2.5 per cent of the workforce – or one in 40 – were off due to Covid towards the end of the month.

Meanwhile, non-Covid sickness absences actually fell over the same period, from 47,628 on December 1 to 43,450 on Boxing Day.

As a result, overall sickness-related absences among NHS hospital staff only rose by 13 per cent in December – from 60,136 on the first of the month to 68,082 on December 26.

Consequently, around 93 per cent of hospital staff were still fit and healthy from a work point of view at Christmas.

However, the picture is varied between England’s 138 NHS hospital trusts.

Around 93 per cent of hospital staff were still fit and healthy from a work point of view at Christmas (Pictured: NHS worker administers Covid jab on Christmas Day)

Five reported overall sickness or self-isolation absences exceeding ten per cent on Boxing Day – Sheffield Teaching Hospitals (12.2 per cent), Nottingham University Hospitals (12 per cent), Wirral University Teaching Hospitals (10.9 per cent), Warrington and Halton Hospitals (10.8 per cent) and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (10.1 per cent).

All had higher than average Covid-related absences.

Taking Covid-related absences alone, three had rates of over five per cent on Boxing Day – Homerton University Hospital in London (7.1 per cent), Royal United Hospitals Bath (6.9 per cent) and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals (6.7 per cent).

But nine reported Covid-related absences of less than one per cent of their workforce on December 26.

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