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Junior staff more likely to take sick leave

  • 4 Comments

NHS staff on lower pay and junior workers are more likely to go off sick than senior colleagues, according to a new report.

Those working in parts of England with high deprivation are also significantly more likely to report absence than staff working in more affluent areas.

Healthcare assistants have the highest average rate of absence (6.5%), followed by ambulance staff (6.3%), and nurses, midwives and health visitors (5.2%).

There are wide variations around the country when it comes to NHS sickness absence, with some organisations having a rate of 1.6% and others reporting 6.8%.

Overall, the North East has the highest sickness rate on average, with the lowest seen in London.

Mental health and learning disability trusts, as well as ambulance trusts have some of the highest rates, according to the study from the Audit Commission.

It says the NHS could save £290 million if sickness absence rates were reduced to the lowest 25%.

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

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

Experts are unclear exactly why deprivation and pay scale influence absence rates so much, although “morale and ability to control one’s work” may play a role for those who are lower paid.

However, the remaining variation is down to “systematic differences” between NHS organisations and the way they manage, support and motivate their staff, the study says.

Factors may include how long-term sickness absence is managed by an organisation, and whether musculoskeletal conditions could be eased by better training on the right way to lift patients or use equipment.

Andy McKeon, managing director of health at the Audit Commission, said: “Managers need to be realistic about what they can achieve and accept that some staff, such as frontline workers who deal with sickly patients all day, are likely to have more days off sick than, for example, those without direct patient care responsibilities.”

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  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • Gemma Watford

    I read this article with much trepidation, as to me its no surprise that junior staff are more likely to go off sick than senior colleagues, due to a number of factors:
    > They can be seen to be 'used' for expediency by more senior staff and treated like canon fodder (someone of less importance)
    > Lower pay
    > their job is seen as a 'dogsbody' role when it it actually an important job they are doing
    > they are largely unappreciated by management

    These attitudes need to change for the better.

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  • Sorry Gemma but as a manager I can assure you that the vast majority of people I need to see because of a high short term sick rate represent about 8% of the workforce and vary across bands and age. It is most certainly the individual and not the band they are paid. You see the same faces over and over until they are dismissed or start attending their work and stop letting their colluegues down. If they were not paid for the first 5 days then I am convinced that the culture of self certifying when not sick would greatly reduce. I can also assure you that most managers appreciate the work done by those at a lower band and you are falling into the trap of "manager bashing " to justify all that is wrong with the NHS. I do not make them take duvet days and I am certain everyone reading this can name at least 2 or 3 who take liberties so lets not kid ourselves on that they are forced to take time off. Everyone will be sick at some time but the serial offenders are taking the mickey out of you and me.

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  • I agree fully with the managers comments above. I also believe that if staff only got paid statuary sick pay we would run on a full work force. Nobody in the private sector or industry gets full pay for months on end, this is an area the NHS could save millions and it needs to be addressed.

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  • you see the more experiance you are the less sh*t you get throwed at dog eat dog?

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