Challenge of meeting high emergency demand and growing Covid admissions rests on depleted and exhausted NHS workforce

Sarah Scobie responds to the latest NHS weekly winter data.

Press release

Published: 07/01/2022

Responding to the latest NHS weekly winter sitrep data, Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Research Sarah Scobie said:

“Staff absences throughout NHS hospitals in England have reached their highest level, putting intolerable pressure on staff working throughout the Christmas period. Across acute hospitals, in the week ending 2nd Jan, there were, on average, over 80,000 staff absent every day, an increase of 13% from the week previously. These levels of absences will now be impacting services and the care that patients receive, with hospitalisations from Covid-19 still rising in the new year period.

“But it is not just hospitals feeling the strain. NHS 111 was inundated with huge numbers of calls as people seek urgent care. The service received over 650,000 calls in one week with 58% answered, and of those only a quarter could be answered within 60 seconds.

“The level of demand for urgent and emergency care remains at high, and near pre-pandemic levels, but the challenge of meeting this growing need rests on a depleted and exhausted workforce. Unlike with previous Covid surges, we are not seeing reductions in demand as a result of lockdowns. Given the challenging Omicron wave on top of seasonal pressure on the health service, there will be more difficult weeks ahead for patients and staff.”

Notes to editors

1.         The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.

2.         For all queries or to arrange an interview, contact Simon Keen: 07780 475571/; or Meesha Patel: 07920 043676 /