Staff sickness in NHS is improving

Sickness falling
Sickness falling

WIGAN is bucking the trend for staff sickness days – despite the findings of a new national report.

The report by the Audit Commission revealed that more NHS staff take sick leave in areas of high deprivation in England.

But Wigan – which often comes high up in the list of the nation’s deprived areas – is one of the better areas of the North West.

Deprivation and staff pay grade account for 61 per cent of the variation in hospital trust absences and 38 per cent in primary care trusts (PCTs), according to the study.

Between July and September 2010, the average sickness absence rate for the NHS in England was 3.97 per cent - falling from 4.34 per cent for the same period in 2009.

However in the North West it was 4.44 per cent.

Ashton, Leigh and Wigan Primary Care Trust averaged 3.99 per cent, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust averaged 4.10 per cent.

A spokesman for the Primary Care Trust said: “The sickness absence level in NHSALW was 2.84 per cent for the year ending on December 31, 2010.

“This compares favourably with that of PCTs nationally, which stands at four per cent and the NHS overall, which is 4.4 per cent as reported by the Audit Commission in its recent publication.”

However, the 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which looks after mental health services in Wigan Borough and four other areas of the region, was the worst in the North West, averaging 6.34 per cent.

A spokesman for the 5 Boroughs Trust said a lot of work had been put in to improving levels of sickness throughout the organisation.

He added: “Improvements have already been made to the Trust’s sickness absence levels. 

“Our rolling sickness absence rate has reduced month on month for the last six months to 6.18 per cent.

“This is very encouraging, especially given seasonal variance. We are closely monitoring sickness to continue to identify patterns and themes so that preventative measures can be implemented. 

“We are also looking at the circumstances of individuals who report sickness so that we can support them back into work.

“We are also supporting our staff with training for managing sickness absence and have launched our health, well-being an engagement strategy in January this year. The is designed to support our staff’s positive mental and physical health and well-being.  

“And crucially, all front line posts are covered if staff are unwell to ensure that our patients are not adversely impacted by any staff sickness.”

The Audit Commission did note that, across England, mental health and learning disability trusts, as well as ambulance trusts have some of the highest rates.

It says the NHS could save £290m if sickness absence rates were reduced to the lowest 25 per cent.

Staff sickness absence in the NHS is estimated to cost £1.7bn a year, and is higher than in the private sector.