Sick days for mental ill health within the NHS skyrocketed during 2022, an analysis has concluded.
The figures from absence management and occupational health provider GoodShape, suggest that the number of staff sick days increased in 2022 to 12 million from 7.21 million in 2019.
That was despite the overall number of people working in the NHS increasing from 1.2 million to 1.3 million.
The cost of mental ill health absence had almost doubled since before the pandemic, rising from £279m pre-pandemic to £468m.
The overall cost to the NHS of absence for the five most common reasons – so including mental health – had increased to £1.85bn in 2022 from £1.01bn in 2019, according to the figures.
Pat Cullen, chief executive and general secretary for the Royal College of Nursing, said in response: “These figures are shocking but not surprising. With 47,000 vacant nurse posts in England alone, the pressures on staff are unrelenting.”
NHS sickness absence
The latest official sickness absence data for the NHS, published by NHS Digital last month, has suggested the overall sickness absence rate for England was 5% in September 2022, unchanged on August that year and slightly lower than the 5.4% reported in September 2021.
Ambulance staff reported the highest sickness absence rate that month (8.8%). Consultants and senior managers had the lowest (1.6%).
Anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illnesses were consistently the most reported reason for sickness absence.
These accounted for more than 496,400 full-time-equivalent days lost and 24.9% of all sickness absence in September 2022, although this was down slightly on the 25.5% reported the month before.