New figures show that just one in every 29 working days were lost due to the virus at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust in the first months of the pandemic.
NHS Digital data shows 1,382 working days were lost due to Covid-19 absence at the Trust between March and May – meaning the virus was responsible for just three per cent of the 40,760 total days lost due to sickness over the three months – one of the lowest proportions among NHS trusts in England.
The NHS has urged caution over the figures, as trusts were not initially required to use the new coronavirus absence code when it was introduced in March and the most Covid-related absences at the Trust were reported in May, when 738 days were lost.
Kath Griffin, director of human resources and organisational development at the Trust – which runs Sunderland Rpyal Hospital – said: “Protecting our staff and patients from COVID-19 has always been our absolute priority and we worked hard to implement strict infection, prevention and control measures to help us minimise the spread of the virus.
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“We are exceptionally proud of the way staff in all parts of the Trust have shown such extraordinary resilience, going above and beyond the call of duty to put the needs of our patients first. In some cases this has meant being temporarily separated from loved ones and working in different roles.
She added: “The challenges of COVID-19 are far from over but I have no doubt that our staff will continue to demonstrate their unwavering professionalism and dedication in the tricky months ahead.”
The Royal College of Nursing warned hospitals can "ill-afford to lose more staff" in a second second wave and the virus and rapid testing must be a priority as cases start to rise once more.
Across England, however, more than 1.3 million days of work were lost in the NHS due to coronavirus-related sickness between March and May.
The Royal College of Nursing's England director, Mike Adams, said some staff members are still reporting having to drive long distances for tests and delays in getting results.
He said: "When wards and clinics are crying out for nursing staff, they can ill-afford to lose more. They must follow the self-isolation guidelines but only rapid and priority testing will get them back to work.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently announced that staff providing acute clinical care would be prioritised for tests, followed by people in care homes and other NHS staff.
Health think tank The King's Fund said the pandemic has highlighted the "exceptional commitment" of NHS staff to ensuring the health system can cope, but warned it has taken a toll on their mental health.
Suzie Bailey, director of leadership and organisational development, said: "There are already significant shortages of staff including nurses, widespread vacancies and an acceptance of excessive workloads but there is also
significant concern about staff wellbeing."