Staff at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust took more days off sick last December than any month since the start of the pandemic.
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.
Dr Latifa Patel, chair of the representative body and workforce lead at the British Medical Association, 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 latest NHS Digital figures reveal 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% in 2021.
At Surrey and Borders Partnership Trust, 4.4% of the available full-time-equivalent working days were missed in December 2022 – the most of any month since at least March 2020.
One month earlier, the rate was 4%, while in December 2021, 3.8% of all FTE working days were absent.
Separate figures from NHS Digital show approximately 205 working days at Surrey and Borders P T 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 absences in December 2022. This increased by almost ten 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.
The highest sickness absence rate in the country was in the North West, at 7.4%. London reported the lowest rate at 5.4%.
Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job or have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.
The NHS Staff Survey 2021 results indicate that NHS staff are experiencing high levels of burnout. Research by The King’s Fund shows that NHS staff are 50 per cent more likely to experience chronic stress, a known contributor to burnout. Staff shortages, high workloads, and pressures to maintain high-quality patient care all contribute to burnout in NHS staff. According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), burnout significantly impacts the retention of our highly valued NHS workforce, with more staff considering leaving the NHS.
Although burnout is a long-standing issue, the pandemic has further burdened NHS staff and exacerbated the problem. Whilst there may be factors beyond control, such as increasing demands on the service, employers must act quickly and effectively to tackle burnout by facilitating a supportive, compassionate, and positive experience that prioritises the experience and well-being of our staff.