Manchester hospital trust had more NHS staff off sick than anywhere else in country

Latest NHS figures show the pressures many hospitals are under this winter.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Tens of thousands of NHS hospital staff are missing work each day because of sickness, putting further strain on an already pressurised healthcare system, new data shows.

In the seven days to 25 December 2022, an average of 63,296 workers were off sick each day across NHS acute hospitals, according to the latest health figures published by NHS England. This is a 4% increase on the previous week’s figures, when 60,583 were off sick.

Although the figures do not state the reason for staff sickness, Covid-19 accounted for 13% of all absences in the week to 25 December. On average 8,029 workers were off each day because of coronavirus.

And the stats show that Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust had the greatest number of staff absent in the country’s hospitals, with a daily average of 1,914 off in the seven days to 25 December - a jump of 129 on the previous week’s average. The trust runs North Manchester General Hospital, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Wythenshawe Hospital, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, Saint Mary’s Hospital, University Dental Hospital of Manchester and Withington Community Hospital. The trust has been approached for comment.

The Northern Care Alliance, which runs Salford Royal, The Royal Oldham Hospital, Fairfield General Hospital in Bury and Rochdale Infirmary, had the seventh largest number of staff absences in the same period. There were 1,296 workers off sick each day on average in the seven days to 25 December.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust had 547 staff absent on average each day, a small drop on the week before. Stockport NHS Foundation Trust had 484, Bolton NHS Trust 436, Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care Trust had 283 and The Christie had 210 in the same period.

The data does not show the overall number of staff employed by each trust to reveal how many are off as a proportion of the overall workforce.

The analysis comes as the NHS faces intense pressure ‘equivalent’ to the Covid pandemic, according to a health official, who urged the government to declare a national major incident. Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, credited staff shortages, lack of investment, a worn-out workforce and a backlog of operations are all contributing to the pressure, as well as Covid and flu cases.

This winter has seen flu cases surge across the country. In December, the number of patients in hospital with flu in England “skyrocketed” with admissions overtaking those for Covid earlier in the month.

Regionally, the Midlands had the greatest number of staff off sick with more than 13,000. This was followed by North East and Yorkshire and the North West with 12,000. The East of England had the lowest daily average of absences with 5,000, followed by the South West with 6,000.

Speaking last week, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Sadly, these latest flu numbers show our fears of a ‘twindemic’ have been realised, with cases up seven-fold in just a month and the continued impact of Covid hitting staff hard, with related absences up almost 50% on the end of November.

“As well as flu, the NHS continues to be under significant pressure, with high bed occupancy, more than 12,000 beds taken up by patients medically fit for discharge, and demand for the 111 service remaining high, so please do make the most of 111 online, and only call 999 or visit A&E in an emergency.

“It is clear this is no time to be complacent and the risk of serious illness is very real, so with nearly 350,000 available vaccination appointments next week it is important that everyone eligible comes forward and gets their Covid and flu jabs at the earliest opportunity.”