Wales’ Auditor General report out today on staff sickness levels in the NHS makes for interesting reading for BMA members. It says it’s still a “significant problem”, even though some improvements have been made.
Since April 2004, time off work because of ill health has averaged out at 14 working days per year for an NHS trust worker. This is down on the previous two years, when the average rate was just over 15-and-a-half working days per year.
I don’t think it should come as any surprise that sickness levels by NHS staff are higher than in other professions. After all, they are coming into contact with various different kinds of illnesses constantly. Those with the strongest immune systems are going to succumb at some point!
Of course, we’re not just talking about physical ill health here either. “Sickness” can cover all kinds of ailments, including stress. And again, it’s hardly surprising if staff working in NHS trusts experience more incidents of stress than other sectors, considering the very stressful situations medics are faced with on a daily basis. Then you have to add to that the fact that occupational health services are found wanting in many parts of the NHS.
That’s exactly why the BMA is calling for a national roll-out of the Primary Care Support Service, as part of our consultation response to the proposed reforms of the Welsh NHS. The PCSS is currently the only occupational health service available to clinicians and disappointingly, isn’t on offer in all parts of Wales. Even the Auditor General, in his new report, highlights the need to improve occupational health services for NHS staff. If that happens, then maybe we really will start to see a dramatic fall in the number of sick days taken by employees looking after the health of everyone else.