The growing number of NHS staff who are off work due to contracting Covid is a big worry for trust for leaders, according to Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers.
Official data shows the number of NHS workers off due to Covid rose from 12,240 on 12 December to 18,829 as of 19 December.
Hopson said the figures demonstrated how Omicron was having a tangible real-time impact on a service that was already operating beyond full stretch, through increased staff absences.
“This is a big worry for trust leaders who are doing all they can to support colleagues at this very challenging time,” he said.
“Absences due to Covid-19 are up nearly 40%, and with community infections surging ahead, that figure may well get worse before it gets better.
“The pressures on hospitals, mental health, community and ambulance services are intense.
“Hospital bed occupancy remains high, and despite some improvement, ambulance handover delays are a continuing cause for deep concern, reflecting wider pressure across the system.”
Hopson also expressed worries about delayed discharges increasing again for patients who are fit to go home or to other community settings.
“The next few weeks will present a huge test for the NHS on many fronts – coping with Covid-19, handling emergencies, working on the backlog where possible, and delivering boosters,” he added.
“Once again, staff are being asked to go the extra mile, working flat out through the holiday period.
“We owe them so much.”