Sickness absence is costing the NHS an estimated £1.5bn a year, according to the NHS Employers organisation, but staff are taking less time off for illness than they were five years ago.
Across the NHS in England, sickness absence has fallen slightly from a high of 4.24% in 2009-10 to 4.06 in 2013-14, according to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
NHS Employers, which represents trusts, estimates this has saved the health service the equivalent of £7m, or 273 full time equivalent staff.
“It’s a huge credit to managers and the workforce that sickness absence is falling at a time when the NHS is working exceptionally hard”
Among NHS staff groups, doctors had the smallest amount of time off sick at 1.22%, with senior managers recording an absence rate of 1.55%.
Qualified nurses, midwives and health visiting staff had an overall absence of 4.5%, with ambulance staff recording the highest sickness at 6.2%.
Overall the HSCIC said NHS staff were taking one less day off sick than they were five years ago.
In recent years there has been a renewed focus on sickness following the 2009 review by Dr Steve Boorman, which called for better sickness policies in the NHS.
Earlier this year, a report by the Royal College of Physicians looked at 178 NHS trusts and found 115 supported staff with health and wellbeing plans, compared with 70 trusts in 2010.
Among individual acute trusts, the latest data shows the top five worst for sickness were all foundation trusts with South Tyneside Foundation Trust recording the highest sickness at 5.26%. The trust with the lowest absence rate was West Middlesex University Hospital Trust at 2.52%.
Sickness absence was notably higher in mental health providers with the worst five trusts all higher than their acute counterparts with Greater Manchester West Mental Health Trust recording a rate of 6.63%.
Coastal West Sussex CCG recorded the highest sickness absence rate at 7.09%, but the region with the worst overall sickness was the North West at 4.60%.
Sue Covill, director of employment services at NHS Employers, said: “We all recognise that healthy, well supported staff are happier in their roles and can give better care.
“It’s a huge credit to managers and the workforce that sickness absence is falling at a time when the NHS is working exceptionally hard to deliver great care,” she said.
NHS organisations with the highest sickness
|NHS organisation||Sickness absence rate|
|Coastal West Sussex CCG||7.06%|
|Greater Manchester West Mental Health FT||6.63%|
|North West Ambulance Service Trust||6.59%|
|South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust||5.26%|