The Department of Health has set an ambitious target of saving £555m from reductions in sickness absence by 2012-13.
The savings were outlined in the wake of the Budget in March, and were part of a raft of measures designed to deliver £4.35bn of savings overall.
Health secretary Andy Burnham said the NHS would also contribute up to £20bn of cross-governmental efficiency savings, including saving £3.5bn from better staff productivity, improving staff health and reducing the NHS’ dependency on agency staff, although there was little in the way of detail about how any of these savings might be achieved in reality.
“To go from good to great, the NHS must become more preventative, more people-centred and more productive,” he said.
What the NHS needed to do to make these savings was take a twin-track approach that drove up quality of its people management as well as improving its absence management policies and practices, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has advised.
Ben Willmott, CIPD senior public policy adviser and author of the CIPD’s annual absence management survey, said: “If the government’s ambitious targets for reducing the cost of sickness absence are to be achieved, the minimum first step must be a thorough review of absence management and sick pay policy and practice in the public sector.
“However, there also needs to be a clear recognition that real savings from tackling absence will rely on better people management across the board,” he added.