NHS Scotland sickness absence fall not enough to meet target
The NHS in Scotland has failed to meet a government target to cut sickness absence rates to 4 per cent by March 2009.
Figures released by the Scottish Government in response to a parliamentary question by Scottish Conservative MSP, Jackson Carlaw, reveal that NHS employees in Scotland took more than 13 million hours in sick leave last year.
The total represents a reduction from 5.55 per cent of all working hours in 2006-07 to 4.95 per cent in 2008-09. The Scottish Government not only described this pattern as a “sustained downward trend” but pointed out that it meant staff were available for a million more hours of patient care (the equivalent of nearly 44,000 days) than was the case two years ago. It also claimed the fall was evidence that the £300,000 it had given to NHS boards to fund projects developed to reduce sickness absence rates was yielding results.
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “This government has been very clear that levels of sickness absence in the NHS must be reduced, and these figures show a welcome downward trend.
“They show that the hard work of NHS boards to reduce sickness rates, coupled with investment from the Scottish Government, is bearing fruit, which is good news for patients and for staff themselves.”
However, the number of hours lost in 2008-09 is still higher than the total recorded in 2005-06, leading Mr Carlaw to pour water on the minister’s claims. He said: “Over the four-year period since figures were first collated, hours lost to the NHS are up nationally — across 10 of 14 regional health boards and seven of eight special NHS boards.
“So, despite what the government spin machine is trying to tell us, a lot of seriously hard work remains to be done to reduce hours lost to the NHS through staff absences.”
Ms Sturgeon admitted that sickness absence is still too high and urged boards “to continue their efforts to promote good health and enable staff to return to work as quickly as possible”.
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