• One in 10 nurses off and one in eight staff overall
  • Figures appear to be slightly up on last weekend
  • Ongoing concerns about staff access to tests, though centre says they will soon be available

One in 10 nurses working in acute hospitals are off work due to coronavirus, according to internal NHS figures seen by HSJ.

Internal NHS figures from the covid-19 national operational dashboard state that, on Saturday, English acute trusts reported that 41,038 nurses and midwives were absent . 28,063 (68 per cent) were covid-19 related. The total nursing and midwifery headcount in acute trusts is about 280,000 — meaning roughly 10 per cent are off on covid-related absence.

There are ongoing complaints from staff about their access to covid-19 tests — which, it is hoped, will hope reduce the absence rates from suspected cases — while national officials say these are now being made available.

Across all acute trust staff, 122,144 in total are absent. 82,075 of these absences are covid-related (67 per cent). The total acute headcount is 943,513 — so about 8.7 per cent of the total are absent for covid-related reasons.

The rate is lower among doctors: 9,239 were absent of which 7,633 (83 per cent) were covid-related. Total medical and dental acute headcount is 113,420 — so about 6.7 per cent were absent for covid-related reasons.

The health secretary last weekend said 5.7 per cent of hospital doctors were absent because of covid-19, and 8 per cent of staff overall - suggesting the rate has increased slightly or flatlined.  Mr Hancock last weekend said “we want to get [absences] down” by increasing testing.

Rates are likely to be very variable between regions and staff working in different settings, specialities and types of services. HSJ has not seen figures for mental health or community health services. 

The figures cover all types of covid related absence. 

Figures for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, which began staff testing early, indicate it this impacted on absence figures. At STH, the dashboard shows, only 38 per cent of current total staff absence is attributed to covid-19-related, and 37 per cent for nurses (compared to 67 per cent and 68 per cent respectively for England overall).

An NHS England spokesman said: “While the data quoted here are not complete and validated, they confirm continuing success in ensuring we have available capacity to look after patients who need our care, which has been one of our overarching operational goals since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.”

One in 10 hospital nurses absent due to coronavirus