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Omicron Causing a Double Emergency for NHS Capacity as Hospitalisations Climb

This morning (Christmas Eve)has seen the release of urgent and emergency care situation reports (sitrep) for the week up to 19 December and the release of data on GP appointments in November.

Our chief executive Matthew Taylor and our director of primary care Ruth Rankine have responded to each of these releases respectively.

The urgent and emergency care sitrep reveals that:

  • The number of days lost due Covid staff absence increased by 38% in the week ending 19th December compared to the week before (up from 90,277 to 124,855)
  • The number of total staff absences increased by 10% from 416,995 to 457,135.

Responding to the latest sitrep, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“The latest data from the frontline of the NHS show that the spread of Omicron is causing a double emergency for NHS capacity, as both hospitalisations climb and as rapidly rising numbers of Covid-positive staff have to self-isolate.

“The direct impact of Omicron on staff is particularly alarming, as Covid-related staff absences across England are up 38 per cent week on week. In London, the crisis is particularly acute, with Covid-related staff absences up 122 per cent.

“It is vital that the Government assiduously monitors not just rises in Covid cases and hospitalisations across the general population, but also regional developments and the impact Omicron is having on the capacity of the NHS workforce.

“The public should also do their best to keep themselves and others safe this Christmas, by taking up the offer of a vaccine or booster if they are eligible, and by observing measures such as mask-wearing in indoor public spaces.”

Responding to the latest data on GP appointments, Ruth Rankine, director of primary care at the NHS Confederation, said:

“These data show that primary care is working harder than ever to meet the needs of its local communities with over 30 million appointments, 63% of which were face-to-face. This is an incredible achievement and higher than pre-pandemic levels of activity.

“Teams across the country are routinely working long into the night, over weekends, and, where there are sufficient staff and demand, many will be preparing to work over Christmas too to get jabs in arms. They are doing this nearly two years into the pandemic and as like the rest of the NHS, they face significant workforce pressures, including sickness absences and vacancies.

“It is important that people remember this commitment as there have been times when primary care has borne the brunt of criticism directed at the NHS. Primary care teams remain committed to delivering the best possible care for their patients.”