Doncaster hospitals struggling with staff absences as rate is 'double previous winter pressures due to Omicron Covid-19 variant'

A leading public health figure has said Doncaster’s hospitals are struggling to properly fill working rotas as staff absences in the NHS are now ‘double’ to what it usually is during winter pressures.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 10:17 am
Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Dr Rupert Suckling, director of public health at Doncaster Council, told the Local Democracy reporting service that staff sickness in the NHS was running at around 15 per cent. He said this was double or even greater than previous years during winter.

He said that this was even more acute in specialist departments where there were fewer consultants in some departments and even referenced pressures in A&E were feeling the strain.

Doncaster is currently seeing an explosion of Covid-19 rates due to the highly-transmissible Omicron variant which was first discovered by South African scientists in December last year.

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According to latest data from the Government’s own Covid-19 interactive chat, the borough currently has a positive rate of 2,386 positive infections per 100,000 people – the highest it has been since the pandemic began.

Dr Suckling said this has had an impact on staff absences within the NHS. He said: “Hospitals are saying their sickness is running between 12 and 15 per cent and that is at least or more than double what they’d usually expect to see this time in winter.

“What that means on a day to day basis, they will have challenges covering rotors, making sure they’ve got sufficient staff and it’s particularly even more so in some of the specialist areas so even areas like A&E for instance, where you might have a very small number of consultants, if you get a significant number of them with Covid-19, it makes it very difficult to run your department.

A statement on the current situation was released by Doncaster Council which said that 75 per cent of care homes in the borough were in Covid-19 ‘outbreak’. Dr Suckling clarified what that meant and it explained that homes were closed to new admissions.

“Care homes operate under guidance from the Department of Health and when they have an outbreak, they are told to close to no to new admissions.

“When the Delta variant was the dominant strain, it was 14 days when Omicron came along and they were very concerned at the time, so they changed it to 28 days.

“We made a decision in Doncaster that will be 14 days within basic assessment of myself and the adult social care team will sign off on it.

“Essentially what it means is, they’ve got residents and staff – and it usually is a combination of both – who have got Covid-19 and they should close for 14 days at a minimum.”