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What are the causes of NHS staff sickness?

6th April 2011

Writing for OnMedica, Andy Mckeon, MD Health Audit Commission, is asking what ails NHS staff?

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While the media occasionally focuses on sickness rates in the public sector such stories might ignore the reasons for the higher rate such as face to face contact with large numbers of people, or more lifting than in the average job.

But it is an expensive problem and in 2009 the Boorman review for the Department of Health found the direct cost of staff sickness absence in the NHS was £1.7 billion, though a recent Audit Commission briefing suggested the NHS could save £290 million by challenging this issue.

And while it is facing £20 billionn of savings, staff sickness is an area that cannot be ignored.

It cannot just be explained by the different nature of NHS work and there are variations in sickness rates between PCTs.

There are higher levels in areas of higher deprivation and also where there is a more junior workforce. But some areas of high deprivation and low staff grade also have below average sickness.

An explanation as to why some organisations deal with the problem better could be that managers are not doing enough to manage sickness absence.

Perhaps managers could do more to help staff with long-term problems or there may need to be a culture change within some organisations to help staff return to work sooner.

While some of the answers might lie nationally, most are up to local management to resolve. It could save money and help improve staff wellbeing.

 

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