Wigan hospitals' staff pushed to breaking point by 'intolerable conditions'

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

Stress, depression, and other mental health problems are the main cause of sick days for NHS staff at Wigan’s hospitals.

The UK’s largest healthcare workers’ union says “intolerable” working conditions are pushing NHS staff to breaking point, after figures revealed millions of days lost to mental illness.

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Figures from NHS Digital show staff at the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) took 74,466 days of sick leave between December 2017 and November 2018.

Of these absences, 14,682 – one in five – were because of factors involving stress, anxiety, depression, or other psychiatric illnesses.

Across the country, mental health sick days accounted for almost a quarter of all absences over the same period – nearly 4.2 million days in total.

Helga Pile, deputy head of health at Unison, said staff were having to contend with intolerable work pressure, bullying, and intimidation and violence from patients.

She said: “Chronic staff shortages mean NHS employees are routinely being asked to do more with fewer resources as they desperately try to keep the service afloat.

“The Government urgently needs to invest in the NHS to cut staff shortages and reduce burn-out, and workers suffering anxiety, depression and stress must get rapid access to mental health support services.”

According to a survey carried out by the mental health charity Mind, more than half of workers across all industries say they are affected by poor mental health in their workplace.

Emma Mamo, its head of workplace wellbeing, said it was important for employers to support struggling employees and tackle work-related causes of mental health problems – including in the NHS.

She said: “We know there can be particular barriers for healthcare staff when disclosing a mental health problem to their employer, such as fears about being deemed unfit to practice.

“Those of us with mental health problems can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace, it just means some of us might need extra support from time to time.”

A spokesman for NHS England said: “We are committed to ensuring that all NHS employers take care of their staff, offering support, good occupational health, flexible working and a range of other measures.”