An influential think-tank has been criticised by Unison for comparing sickness absence in the NHS to those in private companies.
The report, by the think tank, Reform, said sickness absence was 50% higher in the NHS and called for the health service to learn from private sector employers about how to reduce sickness.
But Unison said that the reason for the higher levels of sickness absence in the NHS was staff being exposed to diseases.
Karen Jennings, Unison head of health, said: ‘Reform have obviously got the brains of a “dinosaur” if they think you can compare sickness rates for NHS workers such as nurses, midwives and paramedics with those in the private sector.
‘It would be obvious to most people that if you spend a large part of your day with sick people you are more likely to get ill yourself. And staff who have contracted flu, a vomiting or other bug, cannot come back to work until they are fully fit or lives could be put at risk.
In order to tackle sickness absence you must look at underlying causes. NHS staff do mentally physically and emotionally demanding jobs - often working shifts - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - and that can take its toll on
health. More than 55,000 staff are attacked each year leading to absence while needlestick injuries and back problems also lead to time off.’