Staff absence-related challenges anticipated for ‘weeks yet’ by Northern Trust

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The Northern Health and Social Care Trust is anticipating challenges over staff absences for “some weeks yet”, chief executive Jennifer Welsh has warned.

Speaking at Thursday morning’s Trust board meeting, the CEO reported absences across all areas of Trust services which are being delivered on a “critical need basis” as the Covid pandemic continues.

“We expect that staff challenges across all social care services will continue for some weeks yet,” she said.

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She went on to say that with regard to visiting arrangements, “while community transmission remains high, the Trust needs to remain cautious”.

Antrim Hospital. Pic GoogleAntrim Hospital. Pic Google
Antrim Hospital. Pic Google

She stressed that the Trust will continue to look after all ill, frail, vulnerable and elderly people in its care.

She reported that staff absence is just over 12 per cent but it is “coming down slightly”.

On January 25, there were 536 staff absent in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust who either had Covid symptoms confirmed and who were self-isolating,

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Covid-related absence peaked last month on January 13 with 652 staff members absent. By comparison, on January 4, there were 489 staff absent who had Covid and were self-isolating.

There are 12,152 staff members employed by the Northern Trust.

On January 25, there were 226 who were either self-isolating or shielding. There were 814 absent with non-Covid sickness.

January 13 saw the highest rate of non-Covid sickness among staff  this month at 951.

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In his performance report, Neil Martin, interim divisional director of strategic development, said that the Omicron variant has resulted in a “very significant impact on staffing levels across all services”.

Director of finance Owen Harkin reported that the Trust has spent £38m on agency staff to date this financial year.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter