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Health secretary welcomes staff sickness report

Health secretary Andy Burnham has welcomed recommendations designed to improve the health and wellbeing of NHS staff.

Mr Burnham accepted all the recommendations of occupational health expert Steve Boorman’s report into tackling depression and common complaints like back pain among NHS staff.

The health secretary said: “The purpose of the NHS is to improve the health and wellbeing of the general public.

“We cannot be serious about this if we are not committed to improving the health of those who care for our population.

“That is why I am accepting Steve Boorman’s recommendations and committing to help NHS organisations implement them.

“We hope that by making these improvements we will provide real benefits for NHS staff and patients.”

The NHS loses 10.3 million working days annually due to sickness absence alone, costing £1.7bn a year. Reducing this by a third would save £555m a year.

Almost half of all NHS staff absence is accounted for by musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain and more than a quarter by stress, depression and anxiety.

UNISON head of health Karen Jennings said: “There is a solid connection between staff health and wellbeing and good standards of patient care, so it is in everyone’s interests to make the health of staff a priority.

“Prevention is always better than cure and targeting problem areas like back injuries and stress will save staff from unnecessary pain and the need to take valuable time off work and away from patients.”

Readers' comments (4)

  • i work for the nhs and have suffered from depression before being employed. although at my interview and after several bouts of depression i have informed my trust that i function better at night, they still insisit that i fully rotate on to days. there is no set pattern and at one point i worked one week nights then one days for 6 weeks in row. as you can imagine this affected my mental health. I have recentlt refered myself to occupational health, they have written to my manager and stated that a rota pattern of 3 weeks nights to one week days, would help my condition. although my manger has had the copy of the letter for approx 5 weeks she has not discussed it with me. when i mentioned it she said she had not had time to read it. If this recommendation is not accepted by my manager i will have to take them down the disability discrimination act.; as i feel this is a reasonalbe request under the legislation. as you can imagine the added stress is not helping my mental health.

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  • Support is not what is offered, on return to work, you are interviewed, informed that being off is not acceptable and that if you have three periods of absence in six months you have to attend an investigatory hearing before going to disciplinary. Those who take months off at a time and do so regularly get away with it while those who struggle to come into work are hit hard. Sickness is only tackled by threats and intimidaation in todays NHS.

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  • Same for students - i have been sick 4 days this year and it has been frowned upon. Considering we do full time placements with study, coursework, exams and lectures which amounts to at least 2 full time jobs then surely we are allowed to be sick occasionally? Also being well below the poverty line, you would have thought employers/uni would take this into account when making allowances...

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  • I have been threatened after returning from offsick ,after that have dragged myself to work even when unwell told the managers thinking maybe they will consider that when allocating tasks instead i have been thrown to the deepest end with no support whatsoever ,at the end i dont know what to do and feel neglected by my employer.To be truthfull i think as healthcare staff we are expected to work non stop and not fall ill.

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