REVEALED: Top REASON behind NHS workers’ absences is MENTAL health

According to official data, mental health accounts for about a quarter of all NHS worker absences.

The absence rate in 2022 revealed that the NHS lost the equivalent of approximately 75,000 employees due to illness, which was greater than during the coronavirus pandemic.

The number, derived from NHS data and examined by the Nuffield Trust for the BBC, represents a 29% increase over 2019 – the previous full year before Covid struck.

The investigation revealed that mental health difficulties were the single most common cause, with colds, coughs, respiratory disorders, and the return of flu after the pandemic accounting for further significant increases.

Dr Billy Palmer, the trust’s senior fellow said: “The health service is grappling with a difficult new normal when it comes to staff sickness leave.” He said that while there had been a lot of focus on recruitment, more needed to be done to improve the working conditions of existing staff.

“The workforce plan needs to have concrete support to enable employers to improve NHS staff experience if the service is to break this cycle of staff absences, sickness and leaving rates,” he said.

As not every absence would have been recorded, the trust said the figures were likely to be lower than the true numbers.

The analysis came just days after the Prime Minister hailed his NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, which he called the “largest expansion in training and workforce”.

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