Sickness absence rates among NHS workers fall for a second year running

NHS staff in England had a sickness absence rate of 4.12%, which equated to about 15.56 million days lost to sickness, statistics published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (formerly the NHS Information Centre) has concluded.

The 4.12% rate compared with 4.16% recorded in 2010/11, or about 15.95 million days, which was itself a decline on the 4.4% recorded in 2009/10, or 16.75 million days.

Qualified ambulance workers recorded the highest rate of any main staff group, at 6.18% (405,000 days) and also the highest rate in the previous two years.

Doctors (excluding GPs) recorded the lowest rate, at 1.19% (427,000 days) and also the lowest rate in the previous two years. Rates generally decreased with increasing pay grade, it added.

Regionally, the North-East Strategic Health Authority had the highest rate, at 4.55% or 1.03 million days, while the London Strategic Health Authority had the lowest, at 3.51% or 2.1 million days.

Andrew Hine, UK head of public healthcare at consultancy KPMG, argued that the figures showed the NHS should view its staff as more than a cost on the balance sheet, or risk creating a demotivated workforce suffering from increased absence levels and resignations.

“The truth is that ‘value walks on two legs’ and if staff are to be motivated enough to show their value perhaps the answer lies in creating a short-term adjustment to working hours coupled with a clinical redesign. That way, staff will feel less pressure, costs will be reduced and both without impacting on quality of care,” he said.

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