New data shows the health service is on a dangerous trajectory.
The number of NHS workers absent from work due to Coronavirus has nearly doubled in just two weeks.
It puts the health service on a dangerous trajectory in what has been described as a “perfect storm” of skyrocketing staff sickness and patient demand for services, health leaders have warned.
Official NHS England data reveals that 24,632 workers were absent from work on December 26 due to Covid-related reasons, up 31% from 18,829 a week earlier and nearly double the 12,240 two weeks earlier.
This equates in real terms to 176,914 NHS staff days lost in the seven days that ended on Boxing Day.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The NHS is facing a perfect storm of Covid hospital admissions and illness rising at a very alarming rate, alongside increasing numbers of frontline workers being off sick.
The news comes within days of new “Nightingale hubs” designed to deal with a surge in demand for hospital care have been announced.
Responding to NHS England staff absence data, RCN Director for England, Patricia Marquis, said: “These figures are further evidence of the existing NHS staffing challenges, before any new facilities are opened. More beds and fewer staff must not result in patient care becoming less safe.
“Ministers cannot keep the emergency NHS staffing plans under wraps any longer. Our members need to know what could realistically be expected of them in the comings days and weeks.
“Sajid Javid and NHS leaders can do more to protect nursing staff where they work, especially those caring for suspected or known patients with COVID-19. The highest grade of PPE must be available – we cannot have a postcode lottery in staff safety.”