Birmingham & Black Country

Call to nurse in plan to cut council sickness levels

A scheme in which council workers reporting in sick have to phone in and speak to a nurse is being rolled out across Walsall Council.

The council said it was one of the measures it had put in place to drive down "unacceptable" sickness levels.

Under the scheme, workers speak to a council-employed nurse who advises them about treatment or whether they need to see their GP.

After a "successful" trial, the system was being extended from November.

The pilot scheme across two departments began in January.

The council said between April and September this year, sickness absence figures across the authority fell by 23.4% compared to the same period last year.

Councillor Chris Towe, cabinet member for finance and personnel, said: "Our sickness levels have been unacceptable, there's no doubt about it, and we owe it to the residents of this borough to tackle this issue and bring about a major improvement, which we are doing.

"This reporting system also helps estimate return to work dates and identify any long term issues which may have an impact on services," he added.

Dave Harrison, corporate convenor for the union Unite at Walsall Council, said he had some concerns about the "reporting process" and the information getting through to department managers in time for them to make staffing decisions.

However, he said that "rolling it out to the rest of the council makes it more transparent to everyone, all the employees within the authority".