Covid and the NHS: The number of Preston and Chorley hospital absences on Boxing Day revealed

Coronavirus was the reason behind a third of NHS staff absences at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust on Boxing Day, figures show.

By Federica Bedendo
Sunday, 2nd January 2022, 10:34 am

NHS England's medical director, Stephen Powis, said health services are on "a war footing", with Covid-related staff absences more than doubling in a fortnight.

NHS England data shows 631 staff at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which covers the Royal Preston Hospital and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, were off sick on December 26 – the latest date for which data is available.

Of them, 208 (33%) were off because they had Covid-19, or were self-isolating due to the virus.

Covid is having a big impact on hospital absences

This was a 100% increase on a week before, when 104 Covid-related absences were recorded.

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Professor Powis said new nurses and reservists were being recruited to deal with pressures, as Nightingale hubs are being set-up across the country, Preston one such centre, to tackle a surge in coronavirus patients.

He added: "We don’t yet know the full scale of rising omicron cases and how this will affect people needing NHS treatment, but having hit a ten-month high for the number of patients in hospital with Covid while wrestling with sharply increasing staff absences, we are doing everything possible to free up beds and get people home to their loved ones."

He added that keeping as many NHS staff as possible at work in the next few weeks would be essential.

People who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period – with tests taken 24 hours apart – no longer have to stay indoors for a full 10 days.

But calls are growing on the Government to cut this further, after the US Government slashed the self-isolation period to five days for asymptomatic cases.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said staff absences could pose a bigger challenge to the health service than patients needing treatment for the virus, with staff having to be redeployed to fill gaps.

The Government said while early evidence suggests the new coronavirus variant Omicron is less likely to cause serious illness than earlier waves, it stands ready to impose new measures in England if necessary.

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