Today, NHS bosses warned that staff shortages represent a “bigger problem” than increasing coronavirus cases.

Omicron is rapidly spreading and causing thousands of doctors and nurses to have to isolate themselves every day.  

According to Dr David Nicholl of the Doctors’ Association, the increasing number of absentees is ‘our most serious concern’ for the coming weeks. 

Worst-case scenario modelling projected up to 40 per cent of NHS staff in London — the UK’s Omicron hotspot — could be off each day. 

Before the outbreak, hospitals had cancelled routine operations. This mirrors the worst days of last year’s pandemic. And A&E bosses have warned the crisis may leave doctors with no option but to focus on treating the most severely ill patients.

The staffing shortages may cause more chaos to the existing health care system, which is already “functioning on life support”, according to frontline medical personnel. 

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, told BBC Breakfast that there has been a marked increase in staff absenteeism.

“And quite a number of our chief executive are saying they believe that this is probably going to become a larger problem and a greater challenge…than the amount of people who come in need of treatment for Covid.

“So, what we are seeing in hospitals is that we are now having to redeploy personnel to fill in the gap left by Covid-related absentees in essential and critical services.  

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said staff absences could pose a bigger challenge to the health service than patients needing treatment for Covid

And Dr David Nicholl, of the Doctors' Association, described shortages as 'our biggest worry' over the coming weeks

Chris Hopson, NHS Providers’ chief executive (left), stated that absences of staff could be a greater challenge than Covid-related patients. The Doctors’ Association’s Dr David Nicholl (right) described staff shortages as “our greatest worry” over the next weeks

NHS England data shows staff absences in London due to Covid have increased from 1,100 to 3,874 over in the two weeks to December 19. It means the virus now makes up around 43 per cent of NHS daily absences in London compared to just 18 per cent before Omicron spiralled out of control

NHS England data showed that the number of staff who have been absent in London because of Covid has increased by 1100 to 3874, in just two weeks. The virus accounts for 43 percent of NHS London’s daily absences. This is a significant increase from the 18% that Omicron had before Omicron became out of control.

Some 338 hospital workers at Barts Health trust were ill or isolating due to Covid on December 19, according to NHS England data, compared to 83 two weeks earlier. Guy's and St Thomas' Trust had the highest Covid staff absence numbers in London, with 515 workers at home on December 19, compared to 179 two weeks earlier on December 5 (188 per cent increase). King's College Hospital trust saw 505 Covid-related absences on December 19, followed by Imperial College Healthcare trust (365), Great Ormond Street Hospital trust (351) and St George's University Hospital trust (206)

According to NHS England data on December 19, 338 Barts Health Trust hospital employees were either ill due to Covid or wasolating as a result of the disease. This compares to 83 just two weeks ago. With 515 Covid workers home, Guy’s Hospital Trust (179 on December 5), St Thomas’ Trust was the most affected. This is an 188% increase from the previous week. King’s College Hospital Trust saw 505 Covid-related absences December 19. This was followed by Imperial College Healthcare trust (3365), Great Ormond Street Hospitaltrust (351), and St George’s University Hospitaltrust (206)

According to NHS England data on December 19, 351 Great Ormond Street Hospital Trust workers were either ill due to Covid, as compared with 70 weeks prior. According to statistics, this figure represents 6.13 percent or more of the total workforce at the trust. MailOnline’s graph shows 10 London trusts with the largest percentage of staff absent because of Covid, December 19.

UK is being asked to reduce Covid isolation by just FIVE Days 

Britain today was asked to shorten its Covid quarantine time to only five days and align its isolation rules with those of the USA.

American officials have withdrawn an order calling for infected individuals to be isolated from the public health system within 10 days. 

You can take them home from the halfway point if they do not have symptoms. They will still be able to wear masks for at least five additional days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bosses, insisted that the decision was based on science and maintained society’s functioning.

Today’s leading experts called for the UK to adopt Omicron as a warning sign, especially considering the impact it has had on UK businesses over the holiday period. Omicron is a virus that forced hundreds of thousands of workers to return to their homes.

Union leaders have warned that the rapid spread of the super-transmissible variant has put the NHS and the other public sector in an ‘excruciating state’.

Ministers have already shortened the quarantine period from seven to seven days. Covid sufferers will need to be positive at least twice during the first week.

Sir John Bell is an immunologist and has advised the Government regarding Covid. He said that Britain could replicate the US through lateral flow tests. 

According to him, the Today program on BBC Radio 4 contains a great way to determine who’s infected and who’s not.

Paul Hunter, an infectious disease specialist from University of East Anglia said Covid-infected patients should be allowed to “go about their normal lives” as with a cold.

A total of 18,829 NHS staff were absent because of the coronavirus on December 19, up from 12,240 a week earlier. 

Omicron spread has made it more common in the region. Experts are concerned that the number of people affected by Omicron may have increased over the past week-and-a half.

London’s largest trust has seen a triple-digit increase in absences due to Covid, which is causing a huge problem for the rest of England over the next few weeks.

While admissions are on the rise, so has the patient count. Christmas Day saw 1281 patients with infection placed on wards. That’s an increase of 74% from February, when it was at its highest level. 

The hospital bosses were also instructed to be ready for more chaos by setting up temporary wards and pop-up units in office and meeting rooms.

London’s hospital admissions per day are below 400, which may indicate that the Government is considering intervention.

However, doctors are concerned that capital’s number will rise due to the time delay between infected people and getting severely ill.

Hopson added, however: “We need to be careful about exaggerating current Covid admission data.

“As Omicron increases the Covid community infected rate rapidly, this will lead to more incidental Covid cases at hospitals.”

He revealed that hospitals have not seen an increase in seriously ill patients despite overall admissions rising.

The Guardian was told by Mr Hopson that admissions were rising, but not too quickly.

He acknowledged that some patients in hospital who had tested positive for Covid were admitted to other hospitals for reasons not related to the disease and did not show any symptoms.

Hopson stated that trusts do not currently report large numbers of Covid-type patients who require critical care. 

Meanwhile Dr Nicholl said that staff shortages had left nurses and doctors worried about how they would manage the next few weeks.

Sky News was informed by him that staffing is the biggest concern at present and they are experiencing an increase in staff infections. 

“Given staff sickness rates we all worry about how we will manage as we enter the New Year.” This is creating stress among staff of all levels, including nurses and doctors.

Consultant neurologist Dr Nicholl said that the Omicron isolation crisis put the health system under pressure in terms of its staffing. 

“When I speak to my colleagues in critical-care, all of them tell me that they have less staff now than they had a year ago,” he said. 

President of the Society for Acute Medicine Dr Tim Cooksley stated that each part of the NHS, and Social Care, is experiencing increasing pressure. There are limited resources to absorb additional surges during a highly stressful winter.

“The system survived COVID’s impact through innovation and collaboration, but it has been overwhelmed by staff and services and is now on life support.

Overcrowding of acute care units can lead to worse outcomes for patients. Cross-infections can be a problem during viral pandemics. Omicron has also reduced staffing.

It comes after Britain was today urged to cut its Covid quarantine period to just five days, bringing its isolation rules in line with the US.

American officials canceled an order that required infected people to isolate themselves for 10 days last night. They can now leave at half-way, provided they don’t have any symptoms, and they are able to wear masks around other people for five more days. 

The current requirement for vaccine-affected Brits to remain in isolation for at most seven days is cited by experts as contributing to the NHS staffing crisis.

The NHS does not break down the reasons for absences.

Many NHS doctors are not yet vaccinated. They will need to spend 10 days quarantine in case they contact Test and Trace.