Coronavirus forced hundreds of KGH staff to self-isolate within weeks of lockdown

There were more than 400 staff absent within weeks of lockdown

By Phoebe Radford
Tuesday, 8th September 2020, 11:25 am

Hundreds of staff at KGH were forced to self-isolate and miss work due to coronavirus, official figures reveal.

NHS England data shows that even before lockdown, more than a hundred staff across KGH Trust were absent from work either through being ill with coronavirus or self-isolating as a precaution.

In a statement, KGH's chief people officer, Mark Smith, said: "Clearly the coronavirus pandemic had had major implications for staffing levels across the NHS and Kettering General Hospital was no exception to that."

Coronavirus affected staffing levels at KGH Trust

Staff with suspected or confirmed Covid-19, or staff with household members with coronavirus symptoms, needed to self-isolate in line with national guidelines and for patient safety.

On March 21, two days before Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed lockdown, there were already 132 staff absent from work due to Covid-19.

This more than doubled within a week to 326 staff absent due to coronavirus on March 27. Numbers fluctuated but there was an overall rise to a peak of 419 coronavirus-related absences on April 5, less than two weeks after lockdown was announced.

KGH Trust employs 4,500 people so this represents around nine per cent of all staff.

The number of staff across KGH absent due to Covid-19 did not fall below 300 until May 29. For 63 days between March 27 and May 28, there were more than 300 coronavirus-related staff absences every single day.

Mr Smith said: "The most important consideration we had was the safety of patients and that of our own colleagues. To achieve this we implemented a huge array of infection prevention and control guidelines – based on national guidance – across the organisation at pace.

"Part of this guidance was to instruct staff to self-isolate if they, or a member of their household, had symptoms which could be coronavirus.

"In addition staff in our teams who had underlying conditions, which put them more at risk of becoming seriously ill, needed to be shielded appropriately and these numbers added to our absence rate.

"Overall this led to a small, but important, proportion of our 4,500 strong staff team needing to be absent to ensure the hospital was as safe as we could make it."

NHS England's figures go up to August 9, when 108 KGH staff were absent due to coronavirus.

Mr Smith said: "As testing arrangements progressed, and cases fell, it became quicker and easier to test for the virus and enable staff to quickly get back to work.

"Thankfully now the numbers of staff who are sick or self-isolating has fallen very significantly."

Following last week's news that Kettering and Corby have been added to the government's Covid-19 watchlist, residents are being asked to follow guidelines carefully to avoid a local lockdown.

Mr Smith said: "Clearly though the situation in Northamptonshire is fragile and we all need to remain vigilant.

"We must all continue to regularly wash our hands regularly, and thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds, maintaining appropriate social distance, wearing face coverings where it has been indicated, and being mindful of our social interactions with others, especially those who are older or who have conditions which make them more vulnerable to Covid-19."

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