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NHS staff are taking more days off sick than ever before

The upward trend has coincided with a rise in demand for NHS services and a vacancy rate at an all time high.

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The amount of sickness absence days has risen by over half-a-million in the past year.

Figures from NHS Digital have revealed that NHS staff are taking more days off sick than ever before. In England, NHS staff took 17,730,992 sickness absence days between March 2018 and March 2019 – a rise of 526,090 on the previous year.

The upward trend has coincided with a rise in demand for NHS services and a vacancy rate at an all-time high.

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Mental health problems such as stress, depression or anxiety, and musculo-skeletal problems such as back pain are the main two main reasons for absence.

The highest sickness absence rate was seen in clinical support staff with Band 1 to 3 taking around 6% of days off. Foundation Year 1 Doctors had the lowest sickness absence rate of all staff members with just over 1%.

Mental Health and Ambulance Trusts have some of the highest sickness rates while NHSI, the health services national development and improvement organisation, saw rates of just 1%.

The Royal College of Nursing says that with over 40,000 nursing vacancies in England and services feeling the pressure, it is not surprising to see such high sickness absence rates.

‘Pushed to the edge’.

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary said: “With over 40,000 nursing vacancies in England alone it is not surprising to see so many days of sickness amongst hard pressed nursing staff.

“We know that those just starting out in their careers often feel the pressures the most and many drop out due the pressures depriving the nursing workforce of much needed caring members of staff.

“Nursing staff understand the pressures time off puts on their colleagues and they will not take sickness absence unless they have been absolutely pushed to the edge.

“Employers have a duty of care to ensure they can to protect the safety and wellbeing of their staff and the RCN has produced guidance on where to seek help as well as what staff are entitled to when they need time off for health reasons.

“Every day there are health and care services in which there are simply not enough nursing staff to give the ever-increasing number of patients the care they deserve.

“This will not change until there is a long term commitment to investing in the nursing workforce by placing a legal duty on Ministers and NHS bosses to deliver safe staffing levels and taking urgent action to resolve the nursing supply crisis.”

Workforce

Nursing vacancies hit record high leaving patient care at risk

It can be “dangerous” when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care.

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Patient Falls Risk with IV

There are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone.

NHS figures show that there are now a record 43,671 empty nursing posts in the NHS in England alone, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The College says a global shortage of nurses alongside the removal of the nursing bursary has compounded this figure which now sees 12% of posts through the NHS in England without a full-time Registered Nurse.

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Figures from the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS) show a 29% overall decline in applications to undergraduate courses since 2015, when the bursary was cut by the Government.

In a report released today titled ‘Standing up for patient and public safety’, the Royal College of Nursing outlines the evidence of the need for a new law that allocates specific legal responsibilities for workforce planning and supply.

A new law is needed.

The report states that in order to address the record number of vacancies, and the gap between the numbers of health and care staff needed to deliver patient care vs. how many are in the system.

Figures included in the report reveal that the number of nursing staff has consistently failed to keep up with the dramatic rise in demand for services and the number of emergency admissions.

The report finally makes a further call for legal clarity on the roles, responsibilities, as well as accountabilities, for workforce planning and supply.

In September, after pressure from RCN members, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked the Government for clarity over who is accountable for the nursing workforce.

‘Nurses are working harder than ever’.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “Nurses are working harder than ever to deliver safe patient care but are being held back by a system that is legally lacking teeth. Despite the public, patients and nurses all agreeing that clarity is needed on responsibilities for delivering enough nurses, we have yet to see any government pledge anything of the like, and as a result are staring down the barrel at a record 43k empty nursing posts.

“We know how dangerous it can be when there aren’t enough nurses to provide care, but at present, almost all accountability rests with the frontline nurse working on the understaffed ward, rather than those responsible for the system they work in.

“We believe the time has come for change and that patient care was future-proofed by law, and that from the government down, decision makers are held to account.

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Workforce

NHS calls for clarity on who is accountable for the nursing workforce

Figures suggest there are around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies throughout the NHS in England.

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Working nurses in the CCU

Healthcare leaders are calling for legislation to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have called on the Government to clarify who is accountable for the nursing workforce and the chronic problems it’s currently facing.

Following ongoing pressure from nursing unions, the two organisations met today and recommend that the government should “revisit with partners whether national responsibilities and duties in relation to workforce functions are sufficiently clear.”

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With around 40,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the NHS in England and thousands more throughout social care, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) believes the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care should be legally accountable for the workforce.

Along with other health care leaders, Dame Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, written to the Government calling for the legislation proposed by NHS England and NHS Improvement to be included in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.

Staff shortages have reached ‘alarming levels’.

Responding to the news, Dame Donna Kinnair said: “We are pleased that NHS England and NHS Improvement has recognised the concerns of RCN members and the public and has stated that the issue of accountability for workforce planning and supply remains an area that needs be resolved.”

“In the week after we have launched a major public facing campaign calling for investment in the nursing workforce as well as for accountability to be clarified in the law, yet again, the case is made for this to be taken seriously.

“We are clear that government is well placed to determine how accountability can be clarified in law.

Adding; “Staff shortages have reached alarming levels with at least 40,000 vacant registered nurse posts in the NHS in England alone with thousands more vacancies in public health and social care.

“We now hope government will listen to this message, as well as the voices of the thousands of members that responded to the NHS England engagement process, and bring forward this legislation, taking the opportunity to include accountability in government and throughout the health and care system, for workforce planning and supply.”

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