Burnout could lead to tripling of NHS staff sickness next year

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Hospitals could see as many as one in six doctors and nurses off sick throughout 2022, according to modelling, as the Omicron wave of Covid fuels burnout, stress and anxiety among NHS staff.

Days of record Covid numbers – with 119,789 positive tests reported on Christmas Eve – have led to an increase in hospital admissions in recent weeks, while sickness has also increased among health workers, with NHS absences reaching 12 per cent last week.

But analysis by London South Bank University shows that even after this Covid spike, the health service could be hampered by an absence rate of up to 17 per cent – almost three times as high as the highest seen after previous waves – because of burnout and long Covid. This is on top of a significant number of vacancies in frontline roles.

Overall NHS staff absence rates during the pandemic have peaked after each wave, and reached their highest point in April 2020, standing at 6.2 per cent according to data up to July 2021. The pre-pandemic average was about 5 per cent. Data showed that the most common reason for staff absence was related to anxiety and stress, which drove 30 per cent of absences in July 2021.

Staff across the UK have raised concerns over continued pressures, with healthcare workers “crying every shift”, according to one consultant.

According to the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics, around 40,000 healthcare workers – just over 3 per cent – were estimated to have long Covid in December, up from 5,000 in July.

Dr Elaine Maxwell, former scientific adviser to the National Institute for Health Research, said, based on the current trajectory: “I think that it would be entirely likely that we’re going to see a maturing of the people who’ve been ill with long Covid for a year, as last winter’s infections mature. And I think we could easily see 50,000 NHS staff with long Covid.”

Photo – A member of Leicester’s emergency services at the Leicester Royal Infirmary in Leicester, Britain. EPA-EFE/TIM KEETON

Read more via The Independent

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