More than 2,600 hospital staff in the Anglia region off work because of Covid

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell

NHS hospitals in the Anglia region are under severe pressure with thousands of staff absences because of coronavirus sickness or self-isolation. Schools too are facing staff shortages as pupils return to classrooms this week after the Christmas break

As well as treating the highest number of patients infected with Covid-19 since February last year, more than 2,600 hospital staff were off work because of the pandemic leading to the NHS going onto high alert levels.

Erika Denton, the Medical Director of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital told ITV News: "I'm always worried about managing a hospital that's under this level of pressure."

More than 600 staff are absent from the hospital with ambulances queuing outside. The hospital says 170 patients are fit to be discharged but social care packages are not yet in place so they continue to occupy beds in a hospital on 'Opel 4' - the highest level of alert.

Hospitals in the Anglia region reported that 2,637 staff were off work because of coronavirus on Boxing Day, the most recent data available from the NHS. This is on top of more than 4,000 staff who are off work for other reasons.

The Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which covers both the Luton & Dunstable Hospital and Bedford Hospital has about 4% of its workforce away from the frontline. The Trust's combined figure for absences due to Covid and self isolation is 348 staff out of a total of 8,495 across both hospitals.

Many public services are running at reduced capacity because of coronavirus staff shortages Credit: ITV News Anglia

Staff shortages are likely to be a problem as schools re-open this week for the spring term.

Richard Cranmer is the Chief Executive of the St Benet's Multi Academy Trust which runs eight schools across Norfolk and Waveney. With teacher sickness likely to increase - and a lack of local supply staff - he's drawing up contingency plans.

"We will be looking at adjusting who is able to teach and contribute to the teaching in a way that maybe they haven't been doing in the past.

"We're looking at bringing groups together - into larger spaces obviously - but as a last resort we have had to consider the prospect of remote learning."

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Graham Stothard

Public transport is also being affected by the number of staff absent with train companies in the Anglia region running reduced services.

Rail companies Greater Anglia and Govia Thameslink are both reporting they are running reduced train services. It is not only because of staff shortages but there are also fewer passengers with many following government guidance to work from home where possible.