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Concerns over sickness rates at Scottish NHS helpline

20 December 2007

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Conservative MSP has raised concerns over the sickness rates among staff at Scotland’s medical helpline NHS 24.

Recently released figures show that the telephone and online health service has the highest absence rate of Scotland’s health boards.

In 2006–07, sickness rates at NHS 24 were 9.98%, compared with the average across the boards of 5.55%.

And Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser described the absence rates as being a “very serious issue”.

He said: “What makes that all the more worrying is that NHS 24 is in effect a call centre and the working environment, you would have thought, would be less conducive to people suffering injury at work through nurses lifting patients and so on.”

Robert Black, the Auditor General for Scotland, told him the the NHS 24 board was “very aware they have got a problem here”.

But he explained that call centres in general could suffer from high absence rates.

Mr Black said: “They do say that there are particular problems associated with sustained periods of out-of-hours working and in a call centre environment, because it is generally recognised that these environments do tend to have higher sickness absence than other types of activity.”

NHS 24

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