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Rising covid absences will have ‘significant impact’ on NHS recovery

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Increasing staff absence due to COVID-19 will have a ‘significant impact’ on the ability of the NHS to deliver critical care services and routine operations, leading intensive care doctors have said.

The latest NHS England data has shown the number of COVID-19 related absences of staff, either through sickness or self-isolation, has risen from 11,952 on 1 September to 19,493 on 1 October. Staff absence has almost doubled in the North West in this time as well – from 2,664 to 5,142 during the same period.

It peaked at 17,628 in the region on 11 April and means the October total accounts for nearly a third of that amount already (29%). 

Alison Pittard, dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, confirmed increasing numbers of NHS critical care staff were absent from work. “I suspect this is due to having to be at home with children asked to isolate and therefore the parent needing to isolate, as was the case in the first wave," she told HSJ.

 “This will have an impact on our ability to deliver critical care services. We know that staff numbers are inadequate at the best of times, with a significant vacancy rate especially for critical care nurses.”

Royal College of Anaesthetists council member Helgi Johannsson said the rising absence rate was “likely to have a significant impact”, particularly on routine operations.

Dr Johannsson, a consultant anaesthetist at Imperial College Healthcare Trust, said: “In my hospitals, I have been aware of several doctors and nurses having to isolate due to their children being asked to self-isolate. These healthcare staff were otherwise well and would have been at work."

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Source: HSJ, 14 October 2020

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