COVID in Fife: Health service under pressure as it reveals staff absence levels

Fife’s health services continue to face “considerable and sustained pressure” -but staff absences due to COVID remain in line with the national average.

Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 2:33 pm

While departments were under strain across the festive holidays, NHS Fife said staff either testing positive or self isolating accounted for 1.8% of its workforce.

Linda Douglas, director of workforce at NHS Fife, said: "Health services in Fife are experiencing considerable and sustained pressure, particularly over the extended bank holiday weekend, which is being felt across all parts of our healthcare system.

“These demands, coupled with increased staff absence due to Covid, undoubtedly put considerable strain on teams and individuals across services.”She added: “Whilst comprehensive and responsive resilience planning has helped us mitigate some of the worst effects of the pressures we face, we remain acutely aware of the significant challenges this pandemic continues to pose our services.”

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The update comes after last month’s warning that Fife’s health services faced their “most challenging winter ever” as they faced on-going “exceptional and relentless” pressures - with a warning that this wouldn’t show any signs of letting up over the next four to six months at least.

NHS Fife’s December board meeting was told pre-pandemic targets and standards in areas such as emergency access, delayed discharges and waiting times were not being met, while staff were reporting feeling exhausted and working in an environment of increasing demand, sickness absence and, despite best efforts to recruit, high vacancy levels.

Carol Potter, chief executive, said: “We do not underestimate the extent to which the pressure could have a detrimental impact on patients and staff.

“Many of the issues are not new – the health and care system was under pressure before the pandemic – however, the situation has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

“The unprecedented challenges currently facing NHS Fife and Fife Health and Social Care Partnership reflect the combined issues of continuing high numbers of COVID hospital admissions, high volume of attendances within the emergency department, continuing high emergency admissions, capacity and sustainability challenges within primary care, and difficulties in the flow of patients through our system as we see similar pressures in the social care setting.”

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