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NHS staff sickness in Wales is a problem

28th January 2009

The level of NHS staff sickness in Wales is still a "significant problem", according to a financial watchdog.

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Despite recent improvements, sickness absence rates have averaged 14 working days a year for an NHS trust employee since April 2004.

In his report, Auditor General Jeremy Colman said he believed NHS trusts have saved at least £6m annually in staff time cost by the improvements they have made at reducing the time staff are away from work over the last four years but said some hospital trusts needed to improve occupational health services for staff.

The Welsh Assembly Government has set NHS trusts in Wales a sickness absence rate target of 4.2%. It was 6%, or the equivalent of 15-and-a-half days for every staff member, in 2002/03 though has fallen to 5.4% according to latest figures.

But there is variation between organisations; some are already below that target while others have a sickness level of 7%.

Mr Colman said: "NHS trusts in Wales have made some good progress in tackling the continued problem of sickness absence rates but the figures are still too high.

"The new NHS bodies that emerge following reorganisation later this year need to embed good practice within their organisational culture, management structures and policies with the help of clear guidance from the assembly government."

The Royal College of Nursing in Wales said more work needed to be done to increase occupational health services for NHS staff and address work-life balance through more flexible working combined with reasonable adjustment of their duties.

 

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