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Government accepts plan to save £555m by reducing NHS staff sickness


The Government is set to accept a range of recommendations to drive down staff sickness and absence in the NHS.

High rates of illness and stress are impacting on patient care, according to an independent report into the health and well-being of NHS Staff by Dr Steve Boorman is expected to say.

The independent review was commissioned by the Department of Health to find ways of improving the health and wellbeing of 1.4 million NHS staff.

Dr Boorman calls for staff health checks, counselling for those with mental health problems and healthy eating advice to help people who are overweight.

The report also calls on NHS organisations to lead the way in promoting healthy lives to members of the public.

Annual NHS sickness levels are 10.7 days a year per employee - higher than the public sector average of 9.7 days and 50% higher than the private sector average of 6.4 days.

The NHS loses 10.3 million working days annually due to sickness absence alone, costing £1.7bn per year. Reducing this by a third would mean an extra 3.4 million working days a year, and annual direct cost savings of £555m.

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.

The report recommends that staff with musculoskeletal disorders and mental health problems receive early support.


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Readers' comments (13)

  • Perhaps it would be cost effective to offer access to free massage/physio through occupational health

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  • I suggest NHS managers are sent to 'correctional schools' to stop bullying staff and learn how to enhance working lives. In addition even, maybe, actually take an interest in patients. I know the latter is probably too ambitious but we must retain optimism

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  • There are policies in place to help reducew staff sickness all ready. If managers had the time and the interpersonal skills to apply them I believe sickness would be reduced and managed much better.
    Problem is the least capable staff are expected to counsel staff. There are issues of confidentiality also especially when ward managers are the ones expected to do the counselling. Better to have a neutral manager with time to spare.

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  • Hmmm. Stress, depression & anxiety is, in my experienced, CAUSED by not listening, email bullying (although in some cases this may be poor writing skills and no idea of the impact of poorly written emails copied into all & sundry when this isn't necessary) and poor management practice. Nothing ever changes does it!

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  • Unfortunately, nothing positive will change in the NHS with bad/hostile /unapproachable managers waiting to pounce on you every time a minor human mistake is made or you use ‘professional judgement‘. Lack of support from managers filters down and causes lack of support between colleagues, creating friction and ‘atmosphere’ in the work place. This alone is enough to make anyone’s working life a strain, even without any other problems on top- no wonder staff burn out quick and can’t face going back to work! Managers should concentrate on making working lives better, which will increase morale and enthusiasm on wards, which in turn should create better patient care and less and shorter lenght of sickness!

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  • I'm off sick with anxiety and depression. Last year when leaving a home visit, youths approached me and demanded my car keys. One pointed a gun at me. I got into my car and he tried to get into the back. I managed to drive off. That's what happened in a nut shell. That happened on the Wednesday. It was Friday before any management came to see me. I feel very let down by management, with very little support from them. I subsquently asked to be moved to a different area, as I could not go out without thinking about the incident. I was moved to the largest most demanding caseload in the city. Quite simply, I could not cope! I needed TLC from management. I have been off sick now for two months and I cannot see myself ever going back to work. I feel very stressed about my options and very unsupported by management.

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  • Once again the staff at the front line in the delivery of care are penalised by a Government initiative on top of the ones that caused all the stress and injury in the first place by setting unrealistic targets and insisting on 'efficiency savings' (the buzz words for 'staff cuts'). We now have the don't pay increments by right followed by lets make the already stressed and stretched suffer when they are off sick. My G-d what has the NHS become as an employer?
    Caring for the carers? Not a chance! More like lets workthem into the ground.. reward them less and now 'kick em when they're down!!'

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  • As someone who has now moved from a recently re-organised PCT, where I worked as a health visitor for many years into a post based within another government organisation, I now have the time and head space to reflect on my lucky escape. In the last few years, I have witnessed organisational change on an unprecidented scale, which has been managed in an incredibly insensitive group of managers, who, in line with some of the previous comments, achieved their objectives through thinly disguised bullying and threatening tactics. Staff were left feeling demoralised, unappreciated and fearful. From a large team of about 18 community practitioners, only 3 of the original staff members remain, 2 years on. One is on maternity leave and two on a phased return following substantial periods of sick leave, both for genuine reasons, and both in my view exacerbated by the stress of work. Following reorganisation, it is true to say that staff sickness levels have been way above what would be considered average, but these proposed measures smack of victim-blaming and placing the fault with the sufferers rather than addressing the root cause. I find it incredible that in a Trust with such high turnover from what was previously a high performing and stable workforce, there have been no questions asked as to the reasons for the number of people jumping ship. I am sure my experience has been in no way unique, and feel that more fundamental questions need to be asked rather resorting to this 'quick fix' knee jerk solurion

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  • My experience of the management of sickness in the NHS is of a very few core offenders (and we have all worked with them) who take a sickie at the drop of a hat and manage to dodge most of the work when they do turn up. Whilst they are in the minority, their selfish behaviour impacts on everyone else. This manifests itself in 2 ways:
    1) Their work has to be picked up by their hard-working colleagues, since adequate cover is rarely available, resulting in genuine ill health due to overwork and stress and,

    2Managers seem to lack the courage/skills/
    authority to deal with these people individually, so that all staff are tarred with the same brush and ultimately subjected to suspicion, micro-management and the sort of sanctions we see here.

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  • I have been 31 years in the NHS - I am currently a matron - am I surprised at this - no - am I surprised by the levels of sickness we currently see & the reasons for it ie; stress - no.
    It saddens me to read some of the comments posted; but many are true - the rapid changes, the way change has been handled & expectations of all staff is now reaching unrealsitic proportions. My teams all work very hard in very difficult circumstances with the public demanding ever more of the public money & how it is used. I try very hard to be fair, caring & a responsible manager - that lands me in regular trouble with my bosses if I choose to give a hand on the ward or spend an extra 10 minutes listening to my staff rather than finish yet another report on targets & more targets so they can tick their boxes.
    Managers are also on the receiving end of sickness policies, have more subtle bullying than most staff on the shop floor think - speak up - well thats a good one I have a mortgage to pay - dont' you?

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