Hospitals lost 12,000 working days with staff off stressed

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

MORE than 12,000 working days have been lost in Wigan’s hospitals due to mental health issues in less than a year.

New figures show that from January to October, 244 workers at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) took time off through stress, anxiety or depression, with around 12,481 days lost.

We are always working hard to introduce initiatives to help our staffs’ health and wellbeing and reduce stress levels

Trust spokesman

This figure has been creeping up, with 205 staff off ill with mental health problems during the whole of 2013 and 261 last year. Overall, however, the number of employees taking time off work for sickness - including stress - for more than a week, has fallen from 1,326 in 2014 to 1,091 from January to October this year.

In the previous 12-month period, sickness was at its peak at 4.7 per cent in January 2015, but since then has reduced to 4.09 per cent in October 2015.

The trust says it works hard to ensure staff are happy at work and has introduced a number of initiatives, such as a six-week mindfulness programme and resilience training.

A spokesman said: “We are pleased with the reduction in staff sickness levels overall across the Trust.

“However, we are always working hard to introduce initiatives to help our staffs’ health and wellbeing and reduce stress levels.

“We have an award winning staff engagement programme – The WWL Way, improving culture, staff engagement and performance.

“To improve wellbeing, we introduced a number of initiatives.

Firstly, just before the beginning of winter last year, we arranged resilience training for staff in the A&E depart ment. We provided them with the coping strategies to deal with pressure and challenging situations at work and at home, helpful thought processes, and tips on how to use social support and practical tools.

“As a result the WWL A&E department were one of the strongest performing A&E departments in Greater Manchester, in what was a very challenging winter in 2014/15 for the NHS.

“We continue to be one of the best performers in the region, consistently achieving above 95 per cent for the four hour performance standard and we are the highest scoring A&E for patient/public satisfaction (scoring over 90 per cent).

“We have also recently provided resilience training to our newly qualified junior doctors.

“Being new to the Trust, they are thrown into a stressful job with less support than they have been used to, and at a time when work pressures are increasing in the lead up to winter.

“In addition, we introduced a six week mindfulness programme, run by an external company, for staff who had experienced stress related sickness absence.

“They were taught meditation techniques combined with cognitive behavioural therapy.

“It had a very positive impact with only 10 per cent of individuals reporting depression after the course compared to 70 per cent pre-programme.

“As a result we are now plan to roll mindfulness sessions out more widely across the Trust to help support our strategy for managing sickness and improving well-being.

“We also provide staff with early advice on interventions, including directing staff to our counselling services and referring to Occupational Health to better support staff at times of mental or physical need.

“WWL has worked hard to embed a more rigorous and proactive monitoring and early escalation system. This has been utilised particularly well in the cases of long term sickness; ensuring this group of employees receive all the specialist support available to them.”