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Sickness absence falls to five-year low

25 July 2014

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Sickness absence in the NHS has fallen to the lowest level for five years, data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows. 

Sick leave in the health service has dropped by a day, from 15.52 days per year in 2012/13 to 14.82 days per year in 2013/14. 

The absence rate has fallen form 4.24% to 4.06% year on year, reaching the lowest rate since 2009/10. 

NHS staff in north west England had the highest sickness absence rate (4.6%) and north central and east London had the lowest rate (3.36%). 

However, absence data published by the Office for National Statistics earlier this year showed that average absence rates across the UK were 4.4 days per worker per year. 

The HSCIC wrote that the figures are “best compared” with areas involving infectious conditions, traumatic situations and assaults on employees”. 

Kingsley Manning, chair of the HSCIC said: The NHS workforce is diverse in terms of the occupations and skills needed, compared to many other business sectors. Staff can be faced with situations that are physically and psychologically demanding which could increase the risk of illness and injury.

“It is important that NHS organisations are able to monitor absences at all levels to ensure that they have a full picture of the health and well-being of the NHS workforce that provides care to patients seven days a week, 365 days of the year.”

Sue Covill, director of employment services at NHS Employers, said: “It can be hard to know how best to react to, and manage, staff absence. The online tool is here to help and I’m sure it will get widespread use. Our response when someone calls in sick can make a big difference to how they feel and how they behave next, so getting these things right is invaluable.

“We all recognise that healthy, well supported staff are happier in their roles and can give better care. It’s a huge credit to managers and the workforce that sickness absence is falling at a time when the NHS is working exceptionally hard to deliver great care.”