Troops are getting ready to support the NHS through the current wave of Covid-19 as NHS data shows staff absences due to Covid have risen 59% in a week.
The military said it could offer assistance to more hospitals around the UK if needed after around 200 personnel were drafted in to help the NHS in London, which has led the Omicron wave sweeping the country.
It comes as NHS England data shows 39,142 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for Covid-19 reasons on January 2, up 59% on the previous week (24,632) and more than three times the number at the start of December (12,508).
The figures suggest one in 25 (4% of) NHS staff working in acute hospital trusts are off sick or self-isolating due to Covid.
This 4% is based on NHS Digital monthly workforce data for September for acute trusts (the most recent available).
The latest data shows that in north-west England, 7,338 NHS staff at hospital trusts were absent due to Covid-19 on January 2, up 85% week-on-week from 3,966, while in north-east England and Yorkshire there were 8,788 absences, more than double the number a week earlier (4,179).
In London, absences were up 4% week-on-week, from 4,580 to 4,765.
Overall, there were 82,384 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England who were absent for all sickness reasons on January 2, including self-isolation and mental health reasons, up 21% on the previous week (68,082) and up 37% from the start of December (60,136).
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said rising Covid-19 cases were “piling even more pressure” on hospital trust workers.
He said: “Omicron means more patients to treat and fewer staff to treat them.
“In fact, around 10,000 more colleagues across the NHS were absent each day last week compared with the previous seven days and almost half of all absences are now down to Covid.“While we don’t know the full scale of the potential impact this new strain will have, it’s clear it spreads more easily and, as a result, Covid cases in hospitals are the highest they’ve been since February last year – piling even more pressure on hard-working staff.