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‘40% of the capital’s NHS workforce could be absent’ due to Covid, says professor

Professor Alison Leary, chair of healthcare and workforce modelling at London Southbank University, said as much as 40% of the capital’s NHS workforce could be absent because of rising coronavirus infections under her “worst-case scenario” workings.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, she said: “The NHS is in a fairly fragile state in terms of workforce anyway – that’s fairly well documented – and the increased absence rate due to Covid and Omicron in particular are putting a lot more strain on the system.

“Christmas Eve is the last data we have, there is more data due out today, but, essentially, London’s absence rate is up by about 30%, depending on the organisation.

“That’s not just people off sick with Covid but also people isolating because of positive tests. It is kind of going up every week. Normal sickness rate runs around 4-5% in the NHS, and we are looking more now at 8-9%.”

Asked whether that pattern was likely to be replicated elsewhere, the academic said there were similar signs in the North West of England and the Midlands was showing “increased rates of absence”.

Pressed on what was likely to happen over the coming weeks, Prof Leary added: “One of the scenarios we’ve modelled is around 40% of the workforce being off, absent in London. We’d hope that’s a worst-case scenario, but because we are already seeing an increase, I think it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect that to go up significantly.”

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