Published: 16:48, 27 January 2022
| Updated: 16:54, 27 January 2022
Winter pressure on Kent's hospitals has been laid bare with more than nine out of 10 beds in the county occupied by patients, latest figures show.
But staff absence rates have begun to tail off since peaks at the start of January when more than 1,200 people were off work – half due to Covid-related issues.
That number now stands at 943 workers from the four acute trusts in Kent with 35.8% of those off work due to Covid either through illness, isolation or problems such as childcare.
Hospital bed occupancy rates among adult patients on general and acute wards in Kent now stands at 91.1% – slightly lower than the national average for England (93%).
Figures published by NHS England today show in the four trusts across Kent – Dartford and Gravesham, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, East Kent and Medway – there are 2,358 people admitted to hospital on January 23.
The latest round of weekly figures reporting daily changes during the winter period show this has remained at a steady level during the past week.
Nationally, children occupying general and acute beds in paediatric departments rose by 3% in the past week.
Ambulance arrivals at hospitals increased on the previous week keeping on trend with the wider picture across England.
Between January 10 and 16 there were 3,181 ambulance arrivals at the county's hospitals which went up 5.4% in the following seven days to 3,354 between January 17 and 23.
The busiest day in Kent was January 19 when 511 crews arrived at hospitals.
Meanwhile, critical care beds are also extremely busy with 71 of the available 94 (75.5%) occupied on Sunday, January 23 compared to 68 (71.5%) on the previous Sunday.
Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust was the busiest hospital with 455 of its 475 beds occupied on January 23 – a rate of 95.7%.
Medway's occupancy rate of 93.6% (430 patients) and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells at 91.4% (617 patients) was just above East Kent which stood at 87.6% of its 977 beds in use.
National health bosses say pressure in hospitals around the country, including Kent, remains high.
In the week ending January 23, there were 85,467 patient arrivals at A&Es by ambulance across England which was 2,000 up on the previous week and the busiest week since early December.
NHS national medical director Prof Stephen Powis said: "While it is positive to see more NHS staff back at work, pressure on the NHS is still intense, having seen the busiest week for ambulances taking patients to A&E since the start of December – up almost 2,000 on the week before last – all while pushing to deliver as many routine checks and procedures as possible, including vital diagnostic checks.
“Our staff have already had what feels like a long winter, but despite everything they have had to contend with, they continue to step up as they always do; answering thousands more 111 calls last week than the seven days before, continuing to care for thousands of Covid patients and maintaining non-Covid procedures, and working closely with colleagues in social care to get people out of hospital safely.
“The public can help us by coming forward for their life-saving Covid vaccines, and as has been the case throughout the pandemic, if you have a health problem, please go to 111 online and call 999 when it is a life threatening condition – the NHS is here for you”.