NHS Confederation responds to latest weekly report on winter pressures

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, responds to the latest weekly data from NHS England.

3 February 2022

Responding to the latest weekly NHS winter situation report and data published by NHS Digital, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

"We have passed the peak of the Omicron variant, but the latest figures confirm that Covid, along with other seasonal winter pressures, continue to present direct and significant challenges to the capacity and performance of the NHS.

"Though slowly decreasing, levels of staff absence across the health service remain high. During the week ending 30 January, more than 70,000 staff were absent, with Covid-related reasons making up around 40 per cent of these absences. We have heard from NHS leaders that increasing numbers of staff absences can also be attributed to Long Covid, mental health, and delays to treatments of long-term conditions.

"Regional variations in staff absences also mean that the challenge is particularly acute in certain parts of the country. Last week, one trust in the north east, was forced to declare a critical incident as a result of its staff absences.

"The data also show increased pressure on the ambulance services and emergency departments, with 86,000 ambulances arriving at A&E last week, up from the previous week.

"The impact of running an NHS with long-term workforce shortages mean it is less resilient to short-term shocks. Although the worst of the winter pressures seem to be behind us, we should acknowledge that the NHS entered the pandemic with nearly 90,000 vacancies, and the latest figures show these big gaps in the workforce have grown to nearly 100,000 vacancies including a shortage of 40,000 nurses."