An independent review has called for the NHS to invest in employee health and wellbeing in order to improve patient care and increase effectiveness and efficiency.
The review, which was commissioned by the Department of Health and led by occupational health expert Steve Boorman, highlighted some of the health problems facing the NHS.†
On average, an NHS employee is off sick for 10.7 days a year, compared with an average of 6.4 days in the private sector. This equates to 10.3 million working days lost in the NHS in England each year at a cost of £1.7 billion a year.
As well as these high levels of absence, the review found that many staff reported high levels of stress and felt that their state of health was affecting patient care.
It made a number of recommendations including: reducing smoking among employees; introducing campaigns to help reduce obesity and harmful drinking; tackling causes of stress; and introducing healthier food in staff canteens.
Sian Thomas, director of NHS Employers, said: “We must put the health issues of our staff at centre stage so that we all become role models for our communities. These prevention programmes have been proven to make a difference to organisational effectiveness.”
There are already examples of good practice within the NHS. For instance, Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust successfully reduced sickness absence to 4.69% from 5.34% and saw a 40% reduction in the number of cases of work-related stress when it implemented a management-led initiative to tackle the problem. This looked at changing behaviours, work practices and workloads and was supported by an employee assistance programme.
A further report by Boorman into NHS staff health, which will contain final recommendations, will be published in the Autumn.