PUBLIC services are facing increasing pressure as the rampant Omicron variant continues to spread across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

Staff shortages across the public sector are impacting hospitals, bus services and police numbers.

The latest available figures from NHS England shows 597 staff at University Hospitals Dorset (UHD) in Bournemouth and Poole were off sick on December 26 - the latest date for which data is available.

'A war footing' 

Of them, 191 (32 per cent) were off because they had Covid-19, or were self-isolating due to the virus.

This was a 25 per cent increase on a week before, when 153 Covid-related absences were recorded.

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.

A UHD spokesperson said: “Our hospitals routinely plan for scenarios in which our limited resources and staffing are very challenged, and this planning continues.”

Bournemouth Echo: The Royal Bournemouth HospitalThe Royal Bournemouth Hospital

READ MORE: The number of people in hospital with Covid at UHD

Other services across the conurbation have also felt the pinch as staff self-isolate with Covid-19.

The police service across the region is also experience staff shortages with contingency plans currently in place.

Jo Mosley, director of people and support services at Dorset Police, said: “As with many other organisations we are experiencing absence due to Covid, however, we have robust contingency plans in place and we are not currently experiencing any issues in delivering our service to the communities of Dorset.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Earlier this week Yellow Buses announced it would run reduced services due to rising Omicron cases.

The bus operator is running a Saturday service on its commercial network in a bid to provide a ‘reliable level of service’.

Simon Newport, commercial director for Yellow Buses and Yellow Coaches said: "The whole business is determined to continue to provide a good level of service for the communities in which we operate during these difficult times.

READ MORE: Covid: Yellow Buses reduces services due to Omicron

Bournemouth Echo: Simon Newport, commercial director of Yellow BusesSimon Newport, commercial director of Yellow Buses

"Unfortunately, like everyone, our staff are suffering from the impact of this virus and we are trying to make plans so that we can maintain a level of service so that we can continue to serve our local communities."

Morebus are also operating with reduced staffing levels however this has as of writing, had no impact on their services.

Richard Wade, Morebus general manager said: “We are experiencing higher than usual absence levels, but the timing of the Christmas, school and university holidays have so far enabled us to maintain all services on other routes, as planned.

“We are closely monitoring absence levels and have some alternative timetables prepared, using fewer drivers, which we could bring in if necessary.

“For the time being, it's not possible to say if that need will arise or not.”

A spokesperson for South Western Railway said: "The onset of the Omicron variant has led to a shortage of staff across our business – from drivers and guards to engineers and controllers. These staff shortages have inevitably had a significant impact on our services, leading to short term cancellations.

Bournemouth Echo: South Western Railway is introducing a new, consolidated timetable South Western Railway is introducing a new, consolidated timetable

"As a result, we will be introducing a new, consolidated timetable from Monday January 17. Our focus is on producing a timetable that is deliverable, so that we improve reliability for our customers, and caters to key workers, school pupils and those who cannot work from home. We will be publishing further details on our new timetable shortly."

READ MORE: South Western Railway reduces services due to staff shortages

On the trains, cross country services through Bournemouth are still affected, with some either cancelled or disrupted.