Rising hospital staff absences in Manchester due to Covid as the NHS is on ‘a war footing’ against Omicron

National health bosses are speaking of a ‘worrying, high and rising increase in absence’ as staff test positive and have to self-isolate

The number of hospital staff in Greater Manchester who are off work due to Covid-19 is going up, data shows.

ManchesterWorld has once again analysed figures collected by our sister title NationalWorld to see how many employees in the city-region’s hospitals are having to stay away from work as they are ill or have tested positive and need to self-isolate.

Hundreds of staff have recently been absent from work for Covid-related reasons and the numbers have risen since the beginning of December.

It comes as national NHS bosses have expressed concern over high levels of employees in hospitals being unable to come into work and the fact the numbers are rising as the health service as a whole battles the Omicron variant.

What does the data show for Greater Manchester’s hospitals?

We looked at the average staff absence due to Covid-19 for the week ending 19 December and compared it to the previous week’s.

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust had an average of 453 absences for Covid-19 related reasons in the week between 13 December and 19 December, a rise of 28.64% from the 352 absences which was the average the previous week.

The number of staff missing work at Hampshire hospitals due to Covid has been revealed. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Covid absences at specialist cancer hospital The Christie more than doubled, with an average of 73 absences the week ending 19 December compared to just 34 the previous week.

There was a 45.78% rise in Covid-related absences week-on-week at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, an increase of 37.83% at Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust and a 13.98% rise at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

It was a similar story at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, with a 33% rise. There was an average of 98 absences for reasons related to the novel coronavirus in the week up to 19 December, compared to 73 the week before.

What has been said about hospital staff absences?

Last week Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham told his press briefing that around 10% of the Greater Manchester NHS workforce was off sick.

He said absence levels varied considerably across public services, with lower rates at Greater Manchester Police (GMP) but higher ones in public transport.

Nationally, NHS bosses have begun to sound the alarm at how many hospital staff are now falling ill or testing positive and having to self-isolate as the health service continues to tackle the effects of the more transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19.

They also said the public could do their bit to reduce transmission levels by getting vaccinated and following public health measures.

A man receives a dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in a vaccination clinic set up at St Columba's Church in Sheffield on December 15, 2021 as the UK steps up the country's booster drive to fight a "tidal wave" of Omicron. - The country's medical advisers have raised the Covid Alert Level due to a "rapid increase" in infection from the variant. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “The NHS is on a war footing and staff are taking the fight to Omicron, by boosting hundreds of thousands of people each day, treating thousands of seriously-ill Covid patients and delivering urgent care for other conditions, all while seeing a worrying, high and rising increase in absence due to Covid.

“We are once again ramping up to deal with the rise in Covid infections, and quite rightly staff are making every possible preparation for the uncertain challenges of Omicron, including recruiting thousands of nurses and reservists, but while we’ll leave no stone unturned to get the NHS battle ready, it remains the case that the best way to protect yourself and others is to follow guidance and to come forward and get your first, second and booster jabs.”

What is the national picture?

Across the NHS in England the total number of days lost due to Covid staff absence increased by 38% in the week ending 19 December compared to the week before, going up from 90,277 to 124,855.

The number of total staff absences for any reason also increased by 10% in the latest week, from 416,995 to 457,135.