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NHS staff in England off sick for average of 9.5 days last year

Figures higher than last year; ambulance staff take most sick leave

Caroline White

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

NHS workers in England took an estimated 9.5 working days off sick last year, show the latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

This equivalent figure in 2011-12 was 9.3 and 9.9 in 2009-10, the first year of reporting. But some staff groups have more days off sick than others, the figures show.

The findings, which cover about 1.05 million full time equivalent workers in the English NHS, excluding GPs and practice staff, are based on applying the measured sickness absence rate to an assumed full time working pattern of 225 days a year.

These calculations show that ambulance staff took the most time off, clocking up 14.7 days in 2012-13, compared with 13.9 in 2011-12 and 14.4 in 2009-10.

Hospital doctors took the least time off sick, averaging 2.8 days, compared with 2.7 days in 2011-12 and 2009-10.

Nursing, midwifery, and health visiting staff took an average of 10.6 days in sick leave last year compared with 10.2 in 2011-12 and 10.9 in 2009-10.

Support and admin staff, which includes clerical, estates, and managerial staff, took an average of 8.4 days in sick leave, compared with 8.2 in 2011-12 and 8.8 in 2009-10.

The figures show that 4.24% of NHS staff were ill on any one day average day, compared with 4.12% in 2011-12 and 4.40% in 2009-10.

Some 6.55% of qualified ambulance staff were ill on an average day—the highest rate of any staff group, and the highest rate since 2009-10, when the equivalent figure reached 6.38%

Just 1.25% of hospital doctors were ill on an average day—the lowest rate of any staff group, but a rise on figures for the previous two years (1.19% in 2011-12 and 1.21% in 2009-10).

Regionally, sickness absence rates were highest in the North East where 4.74% of staff were ill on an average day, compared with 4.55% in 2011-12 and 4.98% in 2009-10. The lowest rate was in London at 3.52%, compared with 3.51% in 2011-12 and 3.64% in 2009-10.

Sickness absence was highest among the lowest paid. Six per cent of staff within the second lowest pay band (Agenda for Change Band 2) were ill on an average day– the highest rate of any pay band. The lowest rate was in the highest pay band (Band 9), with 1.22% ill on an average day.

Commenting on the figures, Sue Covill, director of employment services at the NHS Employers organisation, said that the protracted winter, organisational restructuring, and “challenging expectations” had all taken their toll, and were reflected in some of the figures published today.

“It is important to put these figures in perspective. Major staff groups, including nurses, are taking less sick-leave now than at the beginning of the decade, and systems to support their health and wellbeing have undeniably improved,” she said.

“The simple fact is the NHS environment has become more challenging for everyone, making supportive approaches essential to mitigate the pressures and help staff work within them,” she added.

The evidence showed that schemes providing early interventions, support networks, and different ways for staff to take responsibility for their wellbeing and report any concerns in confidence, all helped to drive down sickness absence rates, she explained.

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