NHS Covid absences explode by nearly 60% as chaos of self-isolation rules and growing cases revealed


Absences among doctors, nurses and other NHS staff from contracting covid or self-isolating have increased by almost 60% in just ten days, according to the latest figures.

NHS England data seen by i shows that at the start of July nearly 14,000 employees were self-isolating or sick with covid – a figure that has since risen dramatically.

Separate data exposes extent of disruption caused by people ‘pinched’ by NHS Covid-19 app or testing and traceability service contacts, wreaking havoc on daily life – frontline services to stays.

In retail and consumer sectors alone, 74,000 workers have been forced into self-isolation this month, and another 65,000 employees are involved in essential tasks, from cleaning workplaces to catering. .

None of the categories of staff are likely to figure in the self-isolation exemptions announced earlier this week by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was accused today by Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer of having chaired a “summer of chaos” amid mixed messages about whether those alerted by the NHS app are legally obliged to self-isolate. And of the thousands of NHS workers on leave, only a small proportion should qualify for self-isolation exemption.

The row comes as the hospitality industry grows worried about the ripple effect of the so-called ‘pingemia’ on attractions and venues ahead of a much-needed increase in the incomes of millions of Britons staying at home. UK for their summer vacation.

Industry body UK Hospitality said last night that around 20% of the industry’s staff are self-isolating with many accounts of pubs, restaurants and other businesses due to restrict service or close in the short term. Other sources suggested the figure was lower.

Merlin Entertainments, one of Britain’s largest tourist attraction operators with a portfolio including Alton Towers and Legoland, told i the increase in isolation cases was having a “negative impact” on its sites and joined calls for the new “test and release” system due later this month to be urgently presented.

Bernard Donoghue, managing director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, which represents hundreds of the UK’s top tourist attractions, has warned of a “perfect storm” of severe staff shortages. He told me, “Ping has a serious impact on hospitality and tourist attractions.”

Downing Street declined to specify exactly which areas will be exempt from segregation before the introduction of a new system on August 16 whereby those under 18 and those who have had a double bite will no longer need s ‘isolate as long as they can provide a negative test.

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However, a growing coalition from manufacturing to retail is calling for a ‘test and release’ system in place, allowing those contacted to self-isolate to continue as normal as long as they are negative. .

Marks & Spencer has previously reported that it may have to restrict opening hours due to supply chain issues affecting many retailers, while pub chain Greene King has said it has had to temporarily close 33 pubs last week due to a staff shortage. Auto maker Vauxhall is the latest in the industry to warn that it is cutting production due to factors such as lack of staff.

The extent of absences is revealed by data held by FirstCare, which maintains the UK’s largest database of absences from the workplace covering both the private and public sectors. The company provides data analysis on employee absences to the NHS, the Department for Work and Pensions, BAE Systems and manufacturing giant Philips. Its database contains more than 22 million days of absence, covering more than 750,000 employee files.

After retail and workplace services, the transportation and logistics category is the second most affected with 39,170 employees in self-isolation, up from 16,731 in June.

The government has 19,787 officials on sick leave this month, an increase from 10,993 in June while the UK healthcare system, including care homes, has 26,933 workers in quarantine, up from 22,678 the last month.

Data shows that in July, 2.3% of the retail and consumer sector were also absent due to close contact with a Covid case, while 4.6% of the transport and consumer sectors logistics were absent due to isolation rules. Almost 2% of NHS and community care workers went into self-isolation during the same period, while a similar number – 2% – in the utilities sector were also on shutdown. The education and training sectors account for 3.1% of the workforce due to quarantine rules.

The effect of self-isolation on the ability of the NHS to function will be of particular concern to health chiefs and ministers, as health services grapple with the increase in hospital admissions caused by the Delta variant while seeing its own workforce coming. under pressure.

Figures produced by NHS England show the number of staff absent due to Covid infection or quarantine increased from 8,645 on June 20 to 13,771 as of June 30, an increase of 59%. A health services source said the figure has likely increased significantly since then.

The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Johnson has apologized to businesses “from top to bottom” for “the inconvenience” of being screwed up by the app when asking the Prime Minister’s questions.

He said the government would soon switch to a system based on “contact testing rather than contact isolation” next month.

“But until then, I just have to remind everyone that isolation is a vital tool in our defense against disease,” he added.

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