Hospital trusts in south east London are facing more than 1,000 staff absences, as troops prepare to support the NHS through the current wave of Covid.

NHS England data, accurate of January 2, shows 1,123 Covid-related staff absences across Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust​ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Data is only provided for acute NHS trusts, which provide services such as accident and emergency departments, inpatient and outpatient medicine and surgery.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, which serves residents in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, is worst hit, recording 454 absences on January 2.

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King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Princess Royal University Hospital among other services in Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Bromley, recorded 438 absences.

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, which runs University Hospital Lewisham and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, registered 231 absences.  

Across London, absences were up 4% week-on-week, from 4,580 to 4,765.

A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our services remain open for those who have an urgent health need and if you have an appointment you should attend.

“In response to the rising number of Covid cases, we have taken the difficult decision to start to reduce some non-essential services, which is being looked at service by service, and the best way the public can help is to continue to come forward for their vaccine, including booster doses.”

The military has said it could offer assistance to more hospitals around the UK if needed after around 200 personnel were drafted in to help in London, which has led the Omicron wave sweeping the country.

Overall, there were 82,384 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England who were absent for all sickness reasons on January 2, including self-isolation and mental health reasons, up 21% on the previous week (68,082) and up 37% from the start of December (60,136).

The figures suggest one in 25 (4% of) NHS staff working in acute hospital trusts are off sick or self-isolating due to Covid.

HS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said rising Covid-19 cases were “piling even more pressure” on hospital trust workers.

He 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.”

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