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Staff sickness absence rates 'must fall further'

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NHS bosses in Scotland must do more to reduce the rate of sickness absence, a senior minister has said.

Sickness rates have been cut significantly over the last two years but are still greater than current target levels.

The Scottish government set a target in late 2007 of reducing the number of NHS staff absent due to sickness to 4 per cent by March this year. But health chiefs only managed to cut the sickness absence rate to 4.95 per cent, compared with 5.28 per cent last year and 5.55 per cent the year before.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said one million more hours for patient care, the equivalent of nearly 44,000 days, had been made available as a result of the reduction from 5.5 per cent.

She said: “They show that the hard work of NHS boards to reduce sickness rates coupled with investment from the Scottish government is bearing fruit, which is good news for patients and for staff themselves.

“Despite this progress, however, sickness absence is still higher than we would want and I expect all boards to continue their efforts to promote good health and enable staff to return to work as quickly as possible.”

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