TAUNTON'S Musgrove Park Hospital has seen a sharp rise in staff absences due to Covid.

The latest figures show 561 were off work at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust on January 2.

That was down from the festive period peak of 636 employees off work.

The trust's chief operating officer said the recent rise was down largely to NHS staff either testing positive for the coronavirus or needing to self isolate.

He said: "We are continuing to experience a high demand on health and care services across Somerset.

“In recent weeks there has been a significant increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases in the community, as well as an increase in health and social care staff being off work due to testing positive with Covid-19 or needing to self-isolate.

“Throughout the pandemic we have been closely monitoring the latest Covid data and staffing levels across Somerset.

"We have responded to any changes in this data to ensure we are able to prioritise the safety of our patients and continue to care for and treat patients with the most urgent healthcare needs.

“Our advice to people is you can help us by choosing the most appropriate healthcare service for your needs, including visiting NHS 111 online, speaking to a pharmacist, contacting your local GP practice or using self-care where possible if it’s not an emergency.

“One of the best things you can do is to ensure that you stay well this winter is to have your flu and Covid-19 vaccinations.

"You can book your first, second or booster Covid-19 vaccination on the National Booking System or look for walk-in sites on the Grab a Jab site.

"Information on vaccination programme can also be found on the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group website here - www.somersetccg.nhs.uk/”