Devon and Somerset fire service sick days rise by 42%

Firefighters Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The service said the rise could be due to "considerable changes" at the authority

Sick days at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service have increased by 42% in one year, figures have shown.

In 2014/15, 9.76 days per person were lost to illness, compared to 6.86 days in 2013/2014, the fire service said.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it was "concerned" about the rise.

The fire service said the number of sick days had dropped between 2007/2008 and 2013/2014 and the rise could be attributed to "considerable changes" over the past year.

'Downward spiral'

Trevor French, from the FBU, said: "We're trying to identify the cause, which could be linked to budget cuts.

"Cuts agreed in 2013 will see 159 full time firefighters leave, which is 25% of our workforce and 15 middle managers will also go by 2017.

"Sickness levels have been on a downward spiral in recent years, so we're surprised by the increase."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service employees 1,983 staff

Jane Sherlock, from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The people who work for us are the most important resource we have and we want them to be healthy and happy at work.

"Staff sickness had been declining since 2007 from 13 days to 6.86 days until last year which follows a year of considerable changes within the service.

"There is a strong performance management focus on sickness absence as we are determined to reverse this trend and to continue with the long-term progress we have made."

In February, the service, which claims it has seen a drop of £8.7m of grant funding from the government since 2012/2013, approved a total net revenue budget of £74.7m for this financial year.

It is the largest non-metropolitan fire and rescue service in England and employees 1,983 staff.

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