Medical providers in London grapple with Omicron staff absences

The number of NHS staff on sick leave in London has risen sharply in recent days, risking delaying treatment and posing risks to healthcare as the UK faces one of the world’s largest outbreak of the Omicron variant coronavirus.

Data released on Monday showed that 220 Covid-positive patients were admitted to hospitals in the capital on Friday, the highest daily number since February 10.

It is not known which part is admitted to treatment with severe Covid-19 and which is diagnosed only after being hospitalized for another reason, but figures released last week indicate that The number of “random admissions”, while still potentially a minority, may be on the rise.

The disease’s impact is highlighted as the number of NHS staff in London absent from Covid doubled in just four days last week, internal data suggested by Journal of Health Services, with one in three employees unable to work New Year’s Eve if growth continues.

Debating that forecast, an official familiar with the situation said the increase would “hopefully hit some kind of plateau in the next few days”. However, in some areas of the capital, absenteeism rates were even higher, they revealed: “Several NHS workplaces have been destroyed.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, which represents workforce leaders, admitted that the situation in London was “extremely worrying”. While sick absences typically rate around 5 to 6% this time of year, “some places are reporting 8 [or] 9%,” he added.

“A lot of our colleagues are changing their plans for the next week so they can work shifts,” he said, but added that some non-urgent work would have to be canceled for a few days. next.

NHS England issued an ordinance last week that at least half of patients medically fit to leave must be discharged to make beds for a potential round of Covid patients’ surgery.

However, Mortimer said the transition of care will be more difficult because of the degree of absence in community settings, general practitioner surgery, care homes and inpatient teams. “The whole system is under pressure,” he added.

However, even in London, where the UK’s Omicron wave first hit, this bleak picture is not universal. David Probert, chief executive of University Hospital London NHS Foundation Trust, one of the capital’s leading organisations, said: “As it is today, we can continue to offer elective care. full, full emergency care for all of our patients on each of our eight hospital locations. “

The number of Covid patients hospitalized has increased slightly over the past few days “but no one can identify a significant increase during this period”, he added.

Official data released last week revealed an additional 169 patients who tested positive for coronavirus at a London hospital in the week to December 14, 111 were not treated primarily for Covid, showing that the This number may overstate the extent of the additional pressure on the NHS.

However, at Barts Health NHS Trust, the largest company in the country, a critical care consultant, who asked to remain anonymous, said the staffing crisis was becoming increasingly unsustainable.

At Newham Hospital, one of the trust’s five facilities, a third of the operating theater’s staff took sick leave from Covid last weekend.

“The risk is that we will be looking after people at rates the UK has never seen before in terms of nurses to patients, or doctors to patients, and that will have a direct impact on lives.” surviving,” said one health. worker.

NHS London said the Omicron variant was spreading rapidly in London “and this is affecting all Londoners, including NHS staff, resulting in higher levels of staff absenteeism and higher levels of staff absenteeism.” are working hard to minimize any impact from this and work flexibly during this time.”

Measures to increase staffing include “deploying both clinical and nonclinical staff from near-arm lengths to assist with immunization, and in other clinical settings, and. . . It added.

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