Pandemic causes NHS sickness absence to hit record high

The intense stresses and strains of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic sparked the highest rates of sickness absence among NHS staff in England in more than a decade, according to latest data.

Figures released by NHS Digital revealed that the monthly sickness rate hit 6.2% in April 2020 – up from 5.4% the month before. This was the highest level recorded, in data that goes back to April 2009.

About 2.3 million full-time equivalent days of work were lost out of a total of nearly 36.6 million during April. This compared with 1.4 million lost out of nearly 35 million in the same month last year.

The worst-hit region was London, where the sickness rate increased to 7.2%. This compared with a rate of 4% in January, when London had the lowest rate of any English region.

Ambulance trusts recorded the highest rates of sickness absence, at 7.3%. The next worst-hit group were those working for acute trusts, which provide services such as A&E departments, with a sickness absence rate of 6.5%.

The most reported reasons for sickness absence were anxiety, stress, depression or other psychiatric illnesses, at 20.9%.

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