Mansfield District Council is to pay for its employees to have private hospital treatment in a bid to tackle its high levels of sickness absence.
Chief executive Richard Goad is reviewing individual cases to see whether the radical plan could prove cost effective. Sickness absence currently costs the council between £800,000 and £900,000 per year.
Goad said the council had already paid for one employee with a back injury to have a private MRI scan instead of waiting eight months on the NHS.
“That was 600 to have it done straight away and it saved us about half a year’s salary,” he said.
A recent Audit Commission report revealed that the council averaged 10.9 sick days per employee for 2004-05. The government’s target measure for local government is 8.3 days, but Goad insisted the council was heading in the right direction.
“Although 10.9 days was the average per employee last year, most employees actually took a lot less time off,” said Goad. He added that the figures were skewed by staff who were absent on long-term sick leave, rather than people pulling the occasional ‘sickie’.
Other measures introduced to reduce sickness absence include increased training for managers and new starters and more capacity for the council’s occupational health department.
Goad said both he and the council’s head of HR, Linda Quinton, were responsible for implementing the new measures.