London healthcare providers are struggling with Omicron staff shortages

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The number of NHS hospital staff in London has risen sharply in recent days, threatening treatment delays and showing health risks as the UK struggles with one of the world’s largest epidemics of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Data released on Monday shows that 220 Covid-positive patients were admitted to hospitals in the capital on Friday, the highest daily figure since Feb. 10.

It is not known which part was admitted for treatment with severe Covid-19, and which part was diagnosed only after admission for another reason, but figures released last week say the amount of these “accidental admissions” is probably still a minority, perhaps growing.

The impact of the disease has been highlighted as the number of NHS staff in London absent due to Covid doubled in just four days last week, internal data he saw suggest journal of the health service, with the proviso that every third employee cannot work until the New Year if the growth rate continues.

Disputing that projection, one official familiar with the situation said the rise would “hopefully reach some sort of plateau in the next few days”. However, in some parts of the capital, the share of absentees was even higher, they found: “Some NHS jobs have been decimated.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, which represents the workforce leaders, acknowledged that the situation in London was “extremely worrying”. Although the absence due to illness at this time of year would usually be around 5 to 6 percent, “some places report 8 [or] 9 percent, “he added.

“A lot of our colleagues are changing their plans over the next week so they can do extra shifts,” he said, but added that some non-urgent jobs will have to be canceled in the next few days.

The NHS England issued a decree last week that at least half of all patients fit to leave must be discharged to clear their beds to increase the number of patients with Covid.

However, Mortimer said the transfer of care would be more difficult due to the level of absence in the community, general practitioners, nursing homes and home teams. “The whole system is under pressure,” he added.

But even in London, where the British Omicron wave first struck, this gloomy picture is not universal. David Probert, executive director of the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, one of the leading institutions in the capital, said: “As it stands today, we are able to continue to offer full elective care, complete emergency care to all our patients in each of our eight hospitals. places. ”

The number of patients admitted with Covid has increased slightly in the last few days, “but nothing could be concluded that this is a significant increase at this stage,” he added.

Official data released last week revealed that 169 additional coronavirus-positive patients were in London hospital in the week to December 14, 111 of whom were not primarily treated for Covid, suggesting the figures could overestimate the level of extra pressure on NHS.

However, in the Barts Health NHS Trust, the largest in the country, a critical care consultant who asked to remain anonymous suggested that the staffing crisis was becoming increasingly unsustainable.

At Newham Hospital, one of the committee’s five locations, a third of the operating room staff was ill from Covid late last week.

“The risk is that we will care for people at a ratio the UK has never seen in terms of the number of nurses per patient or the number of doctors per patient, and that will have a direct impact on survival,” one health worker said. worker.

NHS London said the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly in London “and it affects all Londoners, including NHS staff, leading to higher staff absenteeism and teams working hard to minimize any impact from that and to work flexible time during this “.

Measures to strengthen staffing levels included the deployment of both clinical and non-clinical staff at arm’s length to assist with vaccination, and in other clinical settings, and. . . it helps people who have recently left the profession to come back to support the NHS at the moment, ”it added.

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