NHS weekly winter operational update for the week ending 2 January 2021

NHS National Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Omicron means more patients to treat and fewer staff to treat them. In fact, around 10,000 more colleagues across the NHS were absent each day last week compared with the previous seven days and almost half of all absences are now down to COVID.

“While we don’t know the full scale of the potential impact this new strain will have it’s clear it spreads more easily and, as a result, COVID cases in hospitals are the highest they’ve been since February last year – piling even more pressure on hard working staff.

“Those staff are stepping up as they always do; answering a quarter more 111 calls last week than the week before, dealing with an increasing number of ambulance call outs, and working closely with colleagues in social care to get people out of hospital safely.

“You can help us to help you by ensuring you are vaccinated against COVID.

“And as has been the case throughout the pandemic, if you have a health problem, please go to 111 online and call 999 when it is a life threatening condition – the NHS is here for you”.


More than 80,000 staff were absent each day on average, up from 71,000 last week, a 13% rise. On average, 36,000 of those absences were down to COVID, up from 25,000 the week before.

Almost half of staff absences are due to COVID (44%), up from 36% last week – a rise of more than a fifth (22%).

The NHS answered almost 80,000 more 111 calls this week than the week before, a rise of more than a quarter, and almost 50,000 more calls than the previous high this winter (336,000 week ending 19 December). The NHS is recruiting 1,000 more 111 call handlers to deal with the increase.

Bed occupancy remains high, with an increase of two percentage points on the previous week, which accounts for an average of over 1,500 more patients in hospital per day.

Almost 3,000 critical care and general acute beds have been closed due to COVID or norovirus over the last week.

The number of patients arriving by ambulance increased to 83,640, up from 83,000 last week.

On average, almost 10,000 patients who no longer met the criteria to reside were not discharged each day.

On average each day, 42% of patients that no longer meet the criteria to reside in hospital are being discharged. This is slightly down from 45% in the week before Christmas (week ending 19 December). The week of Christmas (week ending 26 December), traditionally see’s higher discharge figures.

Nine tenths (90%) of long stay patients (three weeks) who no longer meet the criteria to reside in hospital are not being discharged each day to places such as social care on average. On average each day last week, 4,495 patients who had been in hospital for three weeks no longer met the criteria to reside, with just 440 on average being discharged.