CORONAVIRUS was the reason behind nearly a quarter of NHS staff absences at hospitals in the Bradford district on Boxing Day, figures show.

With Covid-related staff absences more than doubling in a fortnight, hospitals in Bradford and at Steeton are reassuring the public that they "remain safely staffed"

NHS England data shows 504 staff at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were off sick on December 26.

Of them, 116 (23%) were off because they had Covid-19, or were self-isolating due to the virus.

This was a 51% increase on a week before, when 77 Covid-related absences were recorded.

The data also shows that 236 staff at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust were off sick on December 26, 52 of which were off because they had Covid or were self-isolating.

This was an increase of 11 on the previous week, when 41 Covid-related absences were recorded.

Across England, the number of NHS staff off work due to Covid increased from 18,800 on December 19, to 24,600 on Boxing Day – a 31% rise.

Katherine Duke, Deputy Director of People and Organisational Development at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust and a spokesperson for Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are seeing an increase in staff sickness and isolation absence which reflects what is happening in other workforces and across our communities. We are planning for these contingencies and we want to reassure people that our services remain safely staffed.

"Looking after the health and wellbeing of our people is a key priority for us given the demands they continue to face; we are supporting our staff with a host of physical and mental health and wellbeing services to help them recover and stay well and are also providing access to rapid testing.

"We would ask however that the public only use our accident and emergency department if it is absolutely necessary, to help our staff with the significant level of demand.

"If people don’t need urgent care but they come to A&E, it makes it much harder for our teams throughout the hospital to care for patients who really do need emergency medical treatment. If you need urgent help but it isn’t an emergency, please use NHS 111.

"If you can access the internet then visit, otherwise call the service on 111 and a trained advisor will help.

"For more routine issues such as hangovers or an upset tummy please use your local pharmacy."