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.”