NHS HR key to cutting the nation’s sick absence bill

HR departments in the NHS have a lead role to play in helping reduce
business’ annual £11bn sickness absence bill, according to a CBI report.

Business and Healthcare for the 21st Century, published this week, claims
one of the reasons for the huge cost of sickness absence is the inadequacy of
Britain’s healthcare system.

The report calls for improved management of HR in the NHS.

It concludes there needs to be more emphasis on flexible work arrangements,
increased attention to occupational health provision and enhanced career
development to help retain and develop key healthcare staff.

Tracy Myhill, president of the Association of Healthcare Human Resource
Management, said the NHS has a role to play in reducing absenteeism, but she
stressed managers need to manage absence problems better.

"There is a definite link between the quality of healthcare provided
and the ability of people to attend work.

"NHS as an employer does lack consistency when its comes to
occupational health provision — it should be at the forefront as it has all
the facilities," said Myhill.

Lew Swift, head of personnel at the Walton Centre for Neurosciences,
believes the NHS has already embraced many progressive HR practices.

"The NHS’ flexible working practices are up there with the best,
although, of course, they can be improved. At least 30 per cent of the
workforce is part-time and staff involvement in rostering has been in practice
for years.

"The NHS is a 24-hour business that could not manage without flexible

Swift concedes that the NHS approach to occupational health and career
development is patchy.

He explained, "Nursing, midwife and professional technical staff
development is very good, although management development could do with

The report also calls for more internal occupational health experts in


By Paul Nelson

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