The Omicron variant is ‘already creating staff shortages’, leading figures in the health sector have said.
Responding today (16 December) to concerns that the NHS would lose staff to self-isolation, Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said in Omicron ‘hotspots’ such as London, absences are beginning to ‘rise rapidly’.
It comes after Downing Street yesterday delivered a press conference, outlining that a record 78,610 Covid cases had been reported.
NHS staff had also yesterday administered nearly 612,000 vaccines, including a daily high of 548,039 booster vaccines.
Ms Cordery explained that while this is expected given the increase in community infection rates, leaders are ‘understandably concerned’ about what the impact may be on their workforce.
‘The impact on the workloads for remaining staff is a major challenge given the huge service demand currently across the NHS,’ she said.
‘We came into this pandemic with significant staff shortages. Trust leaders are calling for a fully funded and costed workforce plan so that they have the assurance of the right staff in the right places in the future.’
The Government has today said that GPs and practice staff no longer need to isolate for 10 days if they are a close contact of an Omicron Covid case.
Meanwhile, the NHS Confederation said health leaders will be ‘fearful’ of the prospect of a wave of Covid ‘as big or even bigger’ than previously seen.
Matthew Taylor, its chief executive, said that given ‘NHS staff absences owing to the virus are increasing’, the Government must look to further support health and care workers.
This should include being prepared to recall MPs over Christmas if ‘firmer action’ needs to be taken.
Earlier this year, the Health Foundation, the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund called on the Government to put in place a better system of workforce planning via the Health and Care Bill.
However, last month MPs voted against amending the Health and Care Bill to grant greater transparency around workforce numbers in the NHS.
NHS England told PCNs earlier this week that Covid vaccine sites should be resourced to help them to operate 12 hours a day ‘as standard’.