UK health leaders warn surge in Covid absences threatens patient care

Health leaders have warned that a sharp rise in the number of NHS staff falling ill from the coronavirus threatens to delay patient care, health leaders have warned, as the number of imported cases Hospitals in the UK hit a nine-month high.

Government figures show that a record 129,471 people who tested positive for Covid in England and Wales on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, NHS England data shows a total of 9,546 people are hospitalized across England with Covid-19 as of December 28, up 38% from a week earlier and the highest number since December 28. March 3.

The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in the UK is still below the peak of 34,336 in January. UK Government on Monday decided against further coronavirus restrictions in the UK before the new year after reviewing the latest data on hospital admissions.

But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the governing board of the British Medical Association, suggested Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, ignored the “elephant in the room” in terms of staff absenteeism.

Around 43% of NHS absences in London are now due to Covid, compared with around 16% before the Omicron variant first appeared in late November, he said.

According to the most recent official data, on 19 December the number of staff absent from NHS acute trusts in the UK in connection with Covid-19 was 18,829, an increase of around 50% within a week. .

Nagpaul cautioned that the data speaks volumes about the severity of the situation because they do not account for absentees from general practice and community services.

The Rota gap due to Covid has meant that some appointments have been canceled at short notice and in some cases delayed blood tests, he warned.

Some patients also have a harder time getting to their GP because the front desk staff is sick. “These are very real issues that are affecting care delivery both in general and in hospitals,” he said.

Dr Ian Higginson, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said a survey the agency carried out of its members in recent days found that emergency departments often take up to 25% of nursing and medical staff due to illness. or isolating yourself from Covid.

The school has also received reports that some staff members have difficulty capturing lateral flow or that PCR tests can help them return to work.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital, ambulance, community and mental health trusts, suggested that staff patients could now pose a more serious threat for health services rather than the increasing number of people hospitalized from The new strain is highly infectious.

In an interview with the BBC, he said a number of executives have told him the size of the absence “will probably be a bigger problem and a bigger challenge for them than the number of who need treatment for Covid”.

He later told the FT that the pressure in London was “particularly severe” and that the trusts were having to redeploy staff to maintain essential services.

The absence of Covid-related staff, he said, is “combining an already extremely pressurized system that is operating at full capacity”.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of NHS Confederation, said absenteeism due to sick staff was not evenly distributed: “A wave of infections can knock a whole team out almost overnight.”

The major hospitals in the capital the FT contacted said services were still running despite staff shortages.

King’s College NHS Foundation Trust said: “Like many NHS Trusts, we have seen an increasing number of staff absenteeism due to Covid-19. However, we are continuing to provide all key services to patients, while redeploying staff in a small number of areas that need coverage.”

However, Helen Buckingham, Nuffield Trust’s chief strategy officer, warned that redeploying staff to carry out emergency services, could lead to “further delays” to care. urgent.

Patricia Marquis, director of the Royal College of Nurses, said in recent weeks she had heard of staff working shifts lasting more than 12 hours, working on holidays and “last resort” end” had to cancel the annual vacation.

According to the latest data from UK Health Security Agency, on Tuesday, an additional 17,269 cases of Omicron were reported across England and Northern Ireland, bringing the total number of infections linked to this variant to 177,201.

NHS England says it is working to support trusts, such as “deploying both clinical and non-clinical staff from arm’s length agencies to help with immunizations and clinical facilities”. another ready”.

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