York & North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire NHS trust sickness absence rises

The number of staff at a North Yorkshire health trust signed off work due to stress and anxiety has doubled in two years, figures have revealed.

In 2008, 81 people at NHS North Yorkshire and York were signed off work. In 2010, that went up to 162.

Figures showed the number of sick days taken due to stress and anxiety rose from 1,935 in 2008 to 3,933 in 2010.

The trust said many of the absences were not work-related but accepted it was a challenging time for staff.

Staff 'uncertainty'

BBC Radio York obtained the figures through a Freedom of Information request.

The staff affected included those working in administrative and clerical posts as well as medical and dental staff.

It does not include doctors and nurses employed by the hospital.

The figures showed the biggest number of staff taking sick leave worked in nursing and midwifery in the community.

Unison said it was aware the problem had increased substantially and that it was an issue across all health trusts.

The union said it was partly due to changes in health reform which was leading to uncertainty for staff.

Amanda Wilcock, associate director of human resources at NHS North Yorkshire and York, said work-related stress was monitored through an annual staff survey and had remained "relatively constant" over the last three years.

She said: "It is also important to recognise that a high proportion of absence due to stress and anxiety was not work-related and included issues such as bereavement and family illness.

"We do however recognise that it's been a challenging time for employees across the NHS with the recent restructuring and the pressure to reduce management costs across the organisation."

Separate figures showed that the number of days lost through stress and anxiety among nurses and midwives at Harrogate Hospital rocketed from 35 in 2009 to 771 in 2010.

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT) said the figures reflected an increase in the availability of recorded data rather than being indicative of an increase in the level of stress or anxiety which employees were suffering.

"Sickness absence levels at HDFT are low for the NHS within the region and the information provided does not differentiate between work and non-work related stress and anxiety as our systems do not make this distinction," a trust spokesman said.

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