A fortnight of further hospital admissions for Covid-19 are “already baked in” as some NHS staff face “the steepest climb of the pandemic yet”, the head of the health service has said.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, thanked staff during a visit to King’s College Hospital in London on Friday.
More than 400 people are currently in the hospital with Covid-19.
She said: “We’re a week into 2022 but I do know that for some colleagues it already feels like it’s been a long year.
“Case rates of the new variant have been highest so far here in London, but there is no community, no part of the country, that has been untouched by Omicron and this has obviously had, and will continue to have, an impact on NHS staff and on the services that we’re able to provide.
“Realistically, another fortnight of admissions from Omicron are baked in. The only unknown is what level we will see and, of course, we will hope that the more optimistic forecasts are going to be the right ones.”
She said that whatever the next few weeks bring, there is “no doubt” that it would have been so much tougher if it had not been for NHS staff working to give vaccinations over the last year.
She added: “Staff are stepping up, but they’re not machines.
“As ever in the NHS we’re working on this together, colleagues are finding though that the significant challenges that they’re facing now for some make this the steepest climb of the pandemic yet and the latest stats show that every day around 10,000 more colleagues are off sick than they were last week.
“I know leaders across the NHS are doing everything they can to support their teams.”
She said the NHS was “still here” for the public if they needed treatment and people should continue to come forward for care, adding that people should get their vaccines “to keep the country on the path out of this pandemic.”