Royal Free staff took fewer sick days in December than a year before – as absences across England spike

The main NHS Trust serving Barnet avoids effects of “unprecedented crisis” of staff sickness nationally reports Adam Care, Data Reporter

Hospital ward with member of staff in red uniform seen from the back walking down the corridor
The NHS staff sickness absence rate was 6.3% in England in December 2022 – up from 5.4% the month before – (Credit – Radar)

Staff at the main NHS Trust serving Barnet took fewer days off sick in December than they did a year before, new figures show, in contrast to the picture across England, which saw a spike in absences.

The British Medical Association has warned the NHS is facing an “unprecedented crisis”, with burnt-out staff unable to work and a lack of investment causing further stress, anxiety, and depression.

The latest NHS Digital figures show the NHS staff sickness absence rate was 6.3% in England in December 2022 – up from 5.4% the month before, and slightly higher than 6.2% a year previously.

At the Royal Free London, 5.1% of the available full-time-equivalent working days were missed in December 2022.

One month earlier, the rate was 4.4%, while in December 2021 5.5% of all FTE working days were classed as absent.

Separate figures from NHS Digital show approximately 1,819 working days at the Royal Free London were lost due to Covid-19.

Nationally, colds, coughs and flu were the most reported reason for sickness, accounting for over 580,000 FTE days lost and 22% of all sickness absence in December 2022. This increased by almost 10 percentage points since November.

Anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illnesses were the second most reported reason, accounting for nearly 550,000 FTE days lost.

Clinical support staff lost the most working days with just over 1 million, followed by nurses and health visitors with 740,000, and infrastructure support staff, including NHS managers with 380,000.

Dr Latifa Patel, chair of the representative body and workforce lead at the BMA, said: “This Government needs to step up and ensure that doctors are properly supported for their own health with a system that can meet the needs of patients without adding to staff burnout.

“The NHS is in the worst state it has ever been in, yet there seems to be no plan in place to ensure that our health service is properly resourced, which is threatening patient safety and putting doctors’ health at serious risk.”

The highest sickness absence rate in the country was in the North West, at 7.4%. London reported the lowest rate at 5.4%.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said a new workforce plan focusing on recruiting and retaining more staff will be published later this year.

They added: “We are hugely grateful to NHS staff for their hard work and their health and wellbeing is of paramount importance.

“For those staff that need it the NHS provides physical and mental health support – including targeted psychological support and treatment.”

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