The move comes in a bid to bolster nurse staffing numbers.
Nursing staff at hard-hit NHS trusts are being asked to work on rest days and even cancel annual leave in an attempt to maintain patient safety.
The move comes in a bid to bolster nurse staffing numbers during a “perfect storm” of rising patient demand and skyrocketing staff sickness absence.
NHS England data shows that 39,142 hospital staff in England were absent for Covid-related reasons on January 2, up 59% on the previous week (24,632) and more than three times the number at the start of December (12,508).
The number of patients admitted to hospital with the virus has also steadily increased since mid-December.
A state of crisis.
By the end of last week, seventeen NHS trusts in England had declared critical incidents over the issue and the Government announced it would deploy the military to the trusts most in need of assistance.
NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said in a blog post that many parts of the NHS “are currently in a state of crisis”.
“Some hospitals are making urgent calls to exhausted staff to give up rest days and leave to enable them to sustain core services.”
He added; “Community and social care services, which were already massively overstretched, are at breaking point.”
The situation is widely expected to worsen in the coming days to weeks.
Grassroots campaigning group Nurses United says that nurses area already struggling with “burnout and fatigue”.
Lead Organiser Anthony Johnson said; “A new day and a new story to show the lack of care for nurses and their patients.
“Nurses are struggling with burnout and fatigue. They’re not protected physically or mentally whilst in work. They need their leave to rest, recover but most importantly because they actually deserve to have their rights to have some time off.
“For NHS trusts to be pushed into this shows how dire this Government’s stewardship of the pandemic and workforce shortage has been. All throughout the media Conservative MPs congratulate themselves with meaningless stats whilst our NHS shows that everything is not alright.”