NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

UNITED KINGDOM: OVER 45,000 NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE STAFF CALL IN SICK EACH DAY

August 25, 2009

In the United Kingdom, an independent review of the government-run health care system found that improving the health and well-being of 1.4 million National Health Service (NHS) staff could potentially save over half a billion pounds (about U.S.$820 million) every year.

The review conducted by the NHS Health and Wellbeing Review analyzed 11,337 staff members and 80 percent of them said their state of health affects the quality of the patient care they deliver.

Moreover, researchers found that:

  • While many NHS workers drink in moderation, more than one in five smokes, including heavy and casual smokers.
  • Only around half of NHS staff exercise three days or more each week.
  • When it comes to staff sickness, the review found that those who worked more than eight hours a day had higher rates, as well as those who felt pressure to return to work.
  • Women were more likely to report in sick, alongside those who had worked for the NHS for a long time.
  • The review found that while NHS workers were more likely to pick up illness and infections through their work, this could not explain all of the higher rates of absence.
  • More than half of the 11,000-plus members of staff who contributed to the study said they felt more stressed than usual at the time of completing the survey.

As the United Kingdom's largest employer by far, the NHS should prioritize staff health, say the researchers.  They recommend making available staff counseling, health checks, stop-smoking help and healthy eating advice. Staff NHS staff should also have good occupational health services, decent canteens with good nourishing food and a place to exercise.

Source: Andy Bloxham, "Over 45,000 NHS staff call in sick each day," Telegraph UK, August 19, 2009.

 

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