Sickness among NHS workers has fallen by just 0.04% in 12 months, despite efforts by NHS trusts to reduce the number of days lost.
For the first time the NHS Information Centre has published annual data for the level of sickness absence among health service staff, showing a rate of 4.12% in 2011-12, or 15.56 million days.
This was 390,000 fewer days than in 2010-11 when the sickness rate was 4.16%. In 2009-10 the absence rate was 4.4%.
The figures cover 1.04 million full time equivalent staff, excluding GPs and practice staff.
Gill Bellord, director of employment relations at NHS Employers, said: “The challenge now is to keep sickness levels coming down by continuing to provide the range of support necessary to improve staff’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.”
Latest workforce statistics by the Information Centre also reveal the number of full-time equivalent staff in the NHS fell by 0.9%, or 9,407 staff, between April 2011 and April 2012.
During January to March this year there were 868 compulsory redundancies; 173 were professionally qualified clinical staff and 695 were support staff.
The Royal College of Nursing said the workforce statistics showed the number of qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff had fallen by 4,661 between April 2010 and April 2012.
RCN executive director of nursing and service delivery Janet Davies said: “The pressure to save £20bn in the NHS in England is resulting in cuts to jobs, hitting the frontline hard. You can’t lose more than 4,500 nurses, midwives and health visitors without seriously damaging patient care.
“Despite Government rhetoric, these cuts are real and have been ongoing for some time,”