COVID-19 pressures easing nationally, but NHS still in a very long winter

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, responds to the latest weekly NHS England sitrep.

17 February 2022

Today (Thursday 17 February), NHS England published the latest weekly winter sitrep for the week up to 13 February 2022.

The sitrep reveals that:

  • On an average day, 12,168 patients remained in hospital who no longer met the criteria to reside there (down from 12,387 last week). This means over 56 per cent of patients medically fit to be discharged remained in hospital on an average day.
  • Total general and acute bed occupancy was at 92.3 per cent nationally, with adult hospital bed occupancy at 93.6 per cent. 11 trusts reported adult occupancy at over 98 per cent.
  • 62,777 staff were absent on an average day with 21,325 (34 per cent) off due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • There were 323,287 calls answered by NHS 111 services in the week ending 13 February 2022 – up 18,715 on the previous seven days.
  • There were 85,513 ambulance arrivals; the second busiest week this winter, although below pre-pandemic levels in the equivalent weeks.

Responding to the sitrep, Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said:

“Covid pressures are certainly easing nationally but the NHS is still in a very long winter with 93.6 per cent of hospital beds for adults occupied last week and 111, community services, and ambulance call outs all in high demand.

“The NHS is committed to recovering services that were scaled down because of the pandemic but its capacity is stretched, particularly given nearly 63,000 staff in acute trusts were absent on an average day, with 34 per cent due to COVID-19 related reasons.

“On top of that, trusts are contending with around 93,000 vacancies. These pressures are all connected and they affect the NHS’s ability to work as effectively as it could.

“Given that an ambitious recovery and reform agenda has been set for the NHS, we now need a proper workforce plan to match that vision.”