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NHS crisis as hospitals on brink due to huge staff absence numbers – situation ‘critical’

Coronavirus in numbers: The latest statistics as of January 4

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In a letter to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned the NHS can “ill afford” the current level of absences. The union called for a “more cautious approach” to restrictions across England “without further delay”.

They said: “It is confusing and concerning that the different UK governments have set out their own different rules and regulations in relation to the management of the pandemic.

“Nursing professionals are questioning the level and nature of the variation between governments.”

The RCN said NHS staff absences in England due to the pandemic doubled in the two weeks before Boxing Day.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, told Sky News approximately half a dozen hospitals have declared critical incidents over the last five days.

Aaron Cummins, chief executive of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, told staff “sadly, despite everyone’s best efforts, many of our patients are still receiving a level of care and experience that falls below the level of standards we would like”.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “It’s hard to imagine that if the NHS is being affected, that retail is being affected if sporting fixtures are being affected, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t in schools and colleges have the same issues around staff shortages.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would “make sure we look after our NHS any way that we can”.

This comes after a further 157,758 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases were recorded in England and Scotland as of 9am on Monday, the Government said.

Scotland saw its highest number of daily cases yet, while numbers for Wales and Northern Ireland had not been reported on Monday night.

The Government also said a further 42 people had died in England within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 174,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

On a visit to a vaccination centre, the Prime Minister said he appreciated the pressure staff are under.

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He said it is “vital that we make sure that we help them by trying to contain the pandemic”.

Plan B measures to tackle the pandemic are set to be reviewed when MPs return to Parliament on Wednesday.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said Plan B measures are “working” and “I don’t see no reason why we need to change”.

However, she was unable to confirm how many hospitals have declared critical incidents and how many people were isolating due to Covid.

She told Sky News: “At the moment, if you look at the people who have been hospitalised, they are going in with less severe conditions than before.

“The numbers that are in hospital beds is about half what it was a year ago – and that just shows the power of the vaccine.”

Mr Johnson is also expected to face questions about reports he failed to self-isolate in January last year after coming into contact with a staff member who tested positive.

A Downing Street spokesperson said Mr Johnson had been socially distanced from the staff member and was in their company for less than 15 minutes.

They told the Mirror: “He was not advised to isolate as the rules did not require him to do so.”

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