Loughborough Echo

Staff absence at county hospitals has jumped by two thirds in fortnight

- By CLAIRE MILLER Data Reporter

STAFF absence due to Covid at Leicesters­hire hospitals has jumped by two-thirds in the last few weeks.

The latest NHS England figures give an update on how hospital trusts were coping with pressures in the week to Boxing Day.

While the festive season may have seen some improvemen­ts in waiting times or the numbers waiting to go home from hospital, the Omicron wave is seeing increasing numbers of staff absent.

A total of 3,403 days were lost at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in the week ending December 26 because staff were sick or self-isolating due to Covid.

That was up 43.6% from 2,370 the week before, and up 65% from 2,063 days lost a fortnight ago.

There were 1,569 staff absent for any reason on December 26, the equivalent of one in 10 members of staff being off.

Demand on NHS resources meant 227 ambulances had to wait more than 30 minutes to handover patients at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust’s A&Es last week (20.9%), including 54 waiting more than an hour (5%).

That’s the equivalent of one in five ambulances facing a wait of more than half-an-hour, with one in 20 waiting more than an hour.

The target is for handovers to take under 15 minutes.

That has improved from the previous week when 449 ambulances waited half-an-hour or longer (45%), with 215 waiting more than an hour (21.5%).

Waiting times for ambulances arriving to drop off patients have worsened compared to the figures for the same week (ending December 27) last year.

In the equivalent week last year, 187 ambulances waited more than 30 minutes (16.2%), with 35 waiting more than an hour (3%).

Delays to discharges in other parts of the hospital can make it more difficult to admit people from A&E.

On Sunday (Dec 26), University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust had 102 beds occupied by patients who no longer needed to be in hospital, but who hadn’t been discharged.

That was the equivalent of 6.5% of the general and acute and adult critical care beds across the trust.

The figures for this week compare to 111 beds occupied on the Sunday before, or 7.2% of beds.

Across England, the total number of days lost due to covid staff absence increased by 42% in the week ending

December 26 compared to the week before (up from 124,855 to 176,914).

There has been a 96% increase over the last two weeks, meaning Covid related staff absences have nearly doubled over the last two weeks.

On Boxing Day (the most recent date available), 24,632 staff were absent through Covid-19 sickness of self-isolation at acute NHS hospital trusts. Overall staff absences increased by 9.2% per day on average from 65,305 to 70,762.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “These statistics show the BMA’s repeated warnings about the impact of Omicron on the NHS workforce being realised.

“Not only are doctors incredibly worried about the rising number of people in hospital with Covid-19 – now at the highest level since early March – but also the health service’s ability to provide vital care to all patients, with more than 24,000 staff now off sick with Covid or self-isolating. That’s the equivalent of 178 staff off work at each acute trust in England.

“At the very time the NHS is standing up hundreds of extra beds in ‘Nightingal­e’ units to prepare for a surge in hospital admissions, the number of staff absences is rising rapidly – up 31% in a week for acute trusts in England alone - and today’s figures underline the futility of increasing bed capacity with fewer people to staff it.

“Furthermor­e, these statistics do not take into account staff at GP practices, community hospitals or other healthcare settings, so in reality the number will be much higher – and the impact on patients much furtherrea­ching. With a record backlog in care, we cannot afford to be losing such a high number of staff.”

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