Nurses and other NHS staff are taking more sick days than ever, according to data provided by the Health Minister.
Labour MP Grahame Morris submitted a written question to Parliament asking how many days had been lost in the NHS over the past five years due to sick days being taken. Philip Dunne, who works with Jeremy Hunt as a minister in the Department of Health, responded with a full breakdown of sick days taken from 2012 to 2016.
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It was revealed in the last year that 16,866,471 sick days were taken in total by NHS staff – up 6% from 15,970,492 in 2012, or an increase of 895,979 days used.
Royal College of Nursing senior employment relations advisor Kim Sunley said: ‘Nursing is a challenging job at the best of times but the current strain on the NHS is putting a huge amount of stress on individuals.
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‘Too many feel unsupported, overstretched and are burning-out. The sad consequence is an increase in stress-related illness, which is bad for the nurse and does not help the NHS to provide safe care to patients.
‘This is often compounded by financial worries brought on by years of pay restraint. The best way to reduce this strain is for the government to scrap the pay cap and help recruit and retain enough nurses to deliver safe care.’
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Problems highlighted as key to staff absences were mental health conditions like anxiety or depression and musculo-skeletal problems including chronic back pain as the main reasons NHS staff need to take time off work to recover.
The level of staff sickness was reported in 2015 to cost the NHS £2.4 billion a year – one pound for every £40 it spends.