THE trust behind Southampton's biggest hospital is facing immense pressures as Covid absences place "extra strain" on its services.

On January 5, University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust, had 874 members of staff off with sickness.

Around 54 per cent of these absences were due to Covid, whether that be infection, self-isolation, track and trace, or caring responsibilities. The trust employs 12,000 in total.

This is adding to the existing pressures at Southampton General, which include bed capacity and high usage of the Emergency Department.

University Hospital Southampton

University Hospital Southampton

“Staff absences are naturally placing extra strain on our hospital as we face increased pressures and demand right across the trust and services we provide," said a UHS spokesperson.

“There is pressure on bed capacity, and we are continuing to work closely with all our regional healthcare providers to do all we can to get people who no longer need to be in hospital back home, with the necessary provision and support in place where needed.

“We are also continuing to see extraordinary levels of demand in our Emergency Department which naturally has a knock-on effect on wider services in the hospital and we continue to ask people to consider the wide range of services which are available to them including pharmacies, GPs and urgent treatment centres.”

The spokesperson added: “Our staff are working incredibly hard to care for everyone who needs our help. We are asking members of the community to help us by continuing to walk apart, keep washing hands and wear a mask in any crowded place to help reduce transmission of both Covid and other winter viruses.

“We would also ask anyone who is coming to our hospitals to ensure they test beforehand, in order to protect our vulnerable patients, our staff and the services we provide.”

Covid was also the reason behind more than two in five NHS staff absences at Southampton University Hospital on Boxing Day.

NHS England's medical director, Stephen Powis, said health services are on "a war footing", with Covid-related staff absences more than doubling in a fortnight.

Data shows 604 staff at the trust were off sick on December 26.

Of them, 256 (42%) were off because they had Covid-19, or were self-isolating due to the virus. This was a 27% increase on a week before, when 202 Covid-related absences were recorded.