Nurses in “desperation” and working 14 hours a day in the midst of a “depleted workforce”
Nurses are in “desperation” and regularly work 14 hours a day as they grapple with massive staff shortages caused by the wave of the Omicron coronavirus, the director of the Royal College of Nursing said.
RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said a “very, very impoverished workforce” faced a worse Christmas than last year because of the number of employees forced into segregation.
The government may have left it “too late” to protect the NHS unless it heeded the advice of scientific experts who requested a circuit breaker, she told BBC Breakfast.
Ministers would have an easier time making decisions about how to defend health services if they “put themselves in any nurse’s shoes” for a day, Cullen said on Friday.
Health workers often work 14-hour shifts to make up for shortages, she said.
“We need to listen to the wonderful scientific experts that we have across the country,” Ms. Cullen said.
“We listened to them last night and many nights on TV and they (they are) saying that something needs to happen in terms of a breaker maybe, and that if we let it a lot unfortunately our nurses fear that it is a little too late for the health service.
Some 3,874 NHS staff from acute care hospital trusts in London were absent due to Covid on December 19, more than double the number a week earlier (1,540) and more than three times the number at the start of the months (1,174), according to new figures from NHS England.
The total includes staff who were sick with Covid-19 or who needed to self-isolate.
Across England, 18,829 NHS staff in acute trusts were absent due to Covid-19 on December 19, up 54% from 12,240 a week earlier and on the rise 51% compared to 12,508 at the start of the month.
Ms Cullen said those numbers would likely only increase over the holiday season.
“The desperation nurses face, the fear and the struggle they face every day will continue into the Christmas season, because this Christmas, of course, will not be normal. It will be similar to last year, if not worse, that’s what they tell us, ”she added.
His concerns that the service was overwhelmed were echoed by Chris Hopson, NHS chief supplier, who said the NHS was under “enormous pressure”.
“We have more and more staff absences because as soon as Omicron starts to circulate in the community, surprise, surprise, you will find that NHS staff contract the infection and therefore have to take time off,” said M Hopson at Sky News.
There were 2,097 people hospitalized in London with Covid-19 at 8 a.m. on December 23, according to new figures from NHS England, the highest number since February 27.
In the second wave of Covid, the number peaked at 7,917 on January 18.
Across England, 7,114 patients were hospitalized with Covid-19 on December 23, the highest number since November 4 and up 11% week on week.