Covid: Harrogate hospital staff absences increase six-fold as bosses warn over Omicron impacts

Harrogate District Hospital has seen a six-fold increase in staff absences due to Covid since the beginning of December, new figures show, as bosses warn some services could be scaled back if the situation worsens.

Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 5:31 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 5:32 pm
Almost 200 hospital staff currently have Covid or are isolating as Omicron infections continue to surge.

A total of 196 hospital trust staff had Covid or were self-isolating on Tuesday - up 625% from 27 at the start of last month.

Many hospitals actry have seen similar jumps in absences as infections driven by the Omicron variant continue to surge, with some declaring “critical incidents” amid concerns that they may be unable to deliver vital care to patients.

Steve Russell, chief executive of Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, said the situation in Harrogate had not reached this stage but added routine services could be impacted if more staff are unable to work.

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He said: “Rising Covid-19 infection rates amongst the public and NHS staff are certainly putting pressure on trusts around the country, including our own.

"However, we are continuing to provide priority services for our community and have not needed to declare a critical incident.

“The additional staff absences at the trust is creating pressure for our teams, for instance fewer nursing and medical staff means that whilst we are still able to treat our patients’ for their illness or condition and ensure their safety, we are sometimes not able to provide the level of holistic support that we would like."

Mr Russell added: “It is important that we do all we can to maintain our services so that our patients’ care is not disrupted and we have contingency plans in place should the level of absences continue to rise, for instance redeploying staff where needed or having dedicated staff who are prepared to take on additional shifts.

"Of course, depending upon staff absences, the situation may arise in the future where we need to prioritise acute care, which could impact upon admissions for operations, tests and outpatients appointments."

Covid is not the only reason for staff absences, with 132 out of the 5,000 workers at the Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust off on Tuesday due to other illnesses.

This figure is slightly down from 145 on 1 December.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged the NHS was facing "huge pressures" but added the Plan B restrictions currently in place were the right approach and would be maintained.

He said: “We have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again.

“We can keep our schools and businesses open, and we can find a way to live with this virus.

“I do think the balance of measures that we have is the right one."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter