24 September 2020

More than 1.3 million NHS working days lost to Covid in England, figures show

24 September 2020

More than 1.3 million days of work were lost in the NHS in England due to coronavirus-related sickness over three months, new figures show.

Data from NHS Digital, published on Thursday, shows that 1,349,599 full-time equivalent (FTE) days of work were lost to Covid-19 absence between March and May.

This was the equivalent of around 22% of the nearly 6.1 million FTE sickness days lost during the period across all staff groups in the NHS in England.

The data showed that during the peak of the outbreak in April there were 690,569 FTE days lost due to Covid-19 – 30.6% of the nearly 2.3 million absences recorded that month.

Days lost to Covid-19 related sickness in the NHS in England (PA Graphics)

In March there were 318,140 coronavirus-related FTE days lost to absence, 15.9% of total absences, and in May there were 340,890 FTE days lost to Covid, accounting for 18.9% of all absences that month.

NHS Providers’ director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin said it was not clear how many of the absences were avoidable.

She added: “These figures show how the real impact of Covid-19 on NHS staff absences continued into the summer even as the initial surge in cases abated.

“Nearly one in five days lost due to absence during May were Covid-related.

“Providing a safe environment for staff and patients is an absolute priority for trusts which is why capacity for regular testing is so important.

“In the absence of regular routine testing for staff and patients, with fast turnaround times, this was clearly a problem early in the summer, and it remains a problem today.”

The London region reported the highest Covid 19-related sickness absences as a proportion of all FTE days lost through absence in both March at 26% and April at 40%, but in May the highest related sickness absence was in the South East at 25.8%.

Professionally qualified clinical employees – including doctors, nurses and ambulance staff – had the most FTE days lost to Covid-19-related sickness with 758,927 across the three-month period.

This accounted for 56% of total FTE days lost to coroanvirus during the period across all staff groups.

Of the professionally qualified clinical staff group, nurses had the highest number of FTE days lost to the virus, peaking at 256,053 in April.

The overall sickness absence rate for NHS staff in England in May was 4.7%.

This is down from 6.2% in April, which was the highest level ever seen in the data, which goes back to April 2009.

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