1,000 NNUH staff were off with Covid symptoms during peak of first wave

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: NNUH

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: NNUH - Credit: Nick Butcher

Almost 1,000 staff were absent from one Norfolk hospital during the last lockdown after developing virus symptoms or having to self-isolate.

The absences meant up to a sixth of all workers were absent on some days – but as cases begin to rise again, hospitals say they are better prepared this time around.

Figures from NHS England show 999 Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) staff were unable to work because of the virus between April 2 and April 5.

With a further 438 were absent for non-Covid related reasons, almost a sixth of the trust’s 9,100 workforce were off during the height of the crisis.

The latest staffing figures for the NNUH show 58 staff were absent with virus-related symptoms or were self-isolating on October 1, while 275 were absent for non-virus related reasons on the same day.

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Meanwhile, at the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston, Covid-related absences among its 4,165 strong workforce peaked at 575 on April 8.

The largest number of staff unavailable at any time during the lockdown was on April 17, when Covid and non-Covid absences reached 670.

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In King’s Lynn, absences at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) during lockdown peaked at 510 on May 18, with 182 absences for Covid-related reasons.

The figures shine a light on the pressures faced by NHS trusts as they battled against the virus across both counties.

With hospital admissions now increasing in parts of the north of England, Norfolk’s NHS bosses confirmed plans were in place to deal with any increases in staff absences.

The NNUH said 1,700 staff have been trained to deliver critical care, if the hospital needs to open more Covid wards.

A spokesman added many staff marked as absent were able to continue working from home while the Government’s shielding scheme was in place, and more were able to return to the hospital after the trust set up Covid-secure working areas.

At the JPUH, the hospital said it had strengthened its data recording to provide real time information and allow bosses to forecast staffing levels in advance.

“Additionally, we are creating a bank response team within the hospital, which can be deployed during times of staffing pressures,” a JPUH spokesman added.

Denise Smith, chief operating officer, at the QEH, said: “We have a robust and well-rehearsed plan in place should there be a surge in cases and all of our winter planning has taken account of any potential increase in Covid-19 cases alongside normal winter pressures.

“As we did before, we can quickly increase the number of Covid-19 only wards and areas to deal with any local increases safely while continuing to treat other patients.”

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