Omicron’s absences create a “dangerous state” in the public service | Coronavirus


The absence of staff on the Omicron-Covid variant puts public services in a “dangerous state,” a union leader said amid new dire warnings about the variant’s impact on NHS workforce.

Up to 40% of NHS employees in London alone could be absent from the “worst case scenario” expected by experts due to rising Covid 19 infections, as it became known on Monday.

“We hope this is a worst-case scenario, but since we are already seeing an increase, I don’t think it would be unrealistic to expect a significant increase,” said Prof. Alison Leary, Chair of Healthcare and Workforce Modeling at London South Bank University.

The absenteeism rate in London has increased by about 30%, depending on the organization that included people who were isolated because of positive tests, she told BBC Radio 4 World at One.

Dr. Ian Higginson, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told the program that the number of staff absent in the NHS emergency rooms “could drive us over the edge”.

Serious staffing shortages could also undermine efforts to keep students in schools, as school principals in England say they may be forced to send children home if they do not have enough staff.

Despite a pledge from Boris Johnson to avoid a repeat of January 2021 when the government insisted schools stay open only to close after a U-turn, school principals warn that the rapid spread of Omicron will lead to crowds could be staff absences when schools reopen.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the BBC that staff absenteeism in some schools was at “unsustainable” levels, with up to 25% of staff in the week before the Christmas break.

In other sectors too, such as transport, where rail operators offer reduced services and implement measures such as longer trains, a lack of staff can be felt across the board.

The Rail Delivery Group, the The UK’s rail industry member association said an average of 5.4% of trains were canceled in the seven days leading up to Friday 24 December, compared with an annual average of 2.9%. More recent dates are still pending.

Local authorities are also concerned about the lack of staff, which is particularly acute in adult care, child care and garbage disposal. Its constituency, the Local Government Association, said the councils were concerned that the existing staff shortage “could worsen”.

Covid-related staff shortages were already noticeable in the basic supply of day-to-day business. London City Council Lewisham tweeted Monday that its reuse and recycling center will be closed until Wednesday and that black bin collection will be a priority in the event of delays in garbage and recycling services.

Jon Richard, the deputy general secretary of Unison, whose 1.3 million members are mostly civil servants, told the Guardian, “The major health, council, nursing and law enforcement agencies have so many vacancies that many fear they will can’t do it go on.

“Therefore, additional measures to contain the spread of the virus in the coming weeks are of the utmost importance. Years of cutbacks have meant that the services have just enough staff to get by in normal times. Now Omicron has paid for it and left the services in a dangerous condition. “

That said the Council of National Police Chiefs it had continued to closely monitor absenteeism rates within the police force, which currently did not affect the ability of the armed forces to perform their normal service to the public.

Lucy Moreton, a professional officer with the Immigration Services Union, said that Covid-related absences are increasing in the frontline services, but added that this is also accompanied by non-Covid-related absences, particularly work-related stress.


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