NHS staff sickness in England reaches record high

In England, the NHS has experienced record levels of staff sickness, with figures from 2022 revealing an absence rate of 5.6%. This equates to the loss of nearly 75,000 staff days due to illness.

The current levels of staff sickness in the NHS surpass those witnessed during the peak pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, exhibiting a 29% increase compared to the 2019 rate. Analysis of official NHS data by the Nuffield Trust reveals that mental health problems account for almost a quarter of absences, making it the most prevalent cause.

Significant increases were observed in cases of colds, coughs, infections, and respiratory problems, which can be attributed to the ongoing circulation of Covid and the resurgence of flu during the previous year.

When considering these types of illnesses collectively, three categories emerged, and their combined impact on sickness exceeded that of mental health issues.

The think tank highlighted that the NHS was trapped in a cycle of escalating workload and burnout, creating an apparent unsustainable situation that was leading to staff departures.

In an analysis conducted exclusively for BBC News, this information emerges just before the release of the long-anticipated workforce plan by the government and NHS England.

Dr. Billy Palmer, a senior fellow at Nuffield Trust, remarked, “The healthcare sector is currently confronting a challenging new reality in terms of staff sickness absence.”

Dr. Billy Palmer emphasized the importance of not only recruitment efforts but also the need for greater commitment to enhancing the working conditions of current staff and safeguarding them from illnesses.

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To break the cycle of staff absences, sickness, and high turnover rates, Dr. Billy Palmer stressed the necessity for the workforce plan to provide tangible support, empowering employers to enhance the overall experience of NHS staff.

The NHS sickness rate, reaching its highest level since records began in 2010, surpasses the public sector average of 3.6%. This highlights the significant psychological strain experienced by NHS staff.

The Nuffield Trust cautioned that the reported figures are likely to be an underestimate of the actual number, as not every absence might have been recorded.

Although recording systems varied in Wales and Scotland, it was evident that both nations were also witnessing elevated levels of sickness within the NHS.

Miriam Deakin, representing health managers at NHS Providers, emphasized that the findings exposed the significant psychological burden placed on staff.

In addition to the existing 110,000 vacancies within the health service, Miriam Deakin expressed concern that these absences were further exacerbating the situation, leading to a negative impact on patient care.

Sara Gorton, the Head of Health at Unison, attributed the increase in illness to the relentless pressure faced by the NHS.

Sara Gorton emphasized that as long as the NHS remains understaffed, the soaring absence levels will persist. She highlighted the crucial need for a well-supported workforce to ensure a healthy NHS capable of providing adequate care to those in need.

Source : bbc.com

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