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February 15, 2012

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Sharp rise in stress among Welsh health-care staff

Figures for the last three years show that the number of staff who have taken sick leave for stress, or stress-related health problems, has risen significantly at four of Wales’ health boards.

The figures were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, by Shadow Health minister Darren Millar AM, who described the increases as a “worrying reflection of the burdens placed on NHS staff”.

At 40 per cent, Hywel Dda Local Health Board saw the largest increase – 432 members of staff took stress-related leave in 2008/09, but this total rose to 604 in 2010/11.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board recorded a rise of 34 per cent – from 785 to 1051 between 2008/09 and 2010/11. There were also increases of 24 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, for Cardiff and Vale and Aneurin Bevan Health Boards.

In Powys, the number who took sick leave for stress, or stress-related health problems, dropped.

Commenting on the findings, Welsh Conservative Assembly Member Mr Millar said the statistics should be seen in the light of the cuts that the Welsh Assembly Government is making to the health budget. He said: “I am more than confident that staff in every health board work exceptionally hard to provide a first-class service for Welsh patients. It is Labour’s sloppy approach and refusal to prioritise the health budget that is making their jobs far harder.

“Stress in any workplace is unhealthy and harmful. I would expect the health minister to speak to health boards that have seen a rise in this problem and learn lessons from those that have not.”

A spokesperson for Health minister Lesley Griffiths, however, challenged Mr Millar’s view, insisting: “NHS organisations have invested in occupational-health programmes to support well-being of the workforce, by, for example, responding proactively to violence and aggression – all designed to help reduce stress levels.”

Using Mr Millar’s argument against him, by comparing the situation in Wales with England, the spokesperson added: “The calamitous health reforms being forced through by the Tories in England, on top of mass redundancies caused by cuts, will obviously have an impact on stress levels among staff there. Mercifully, in Wales, our NHS staff will not be confronted with that kind of Tory dogma.”

The Royal College of Nursing in Wales told SHP that the rise in stress among nursing staff was a consequence of the huge reorganisation of the NHS in Wales, which has seen the number of trusts halved. Tina Donnelly, the College’s director, said: “As well as downsizing the clinical environment on the front line in the acute health-care sector, nurses are having to manage patients’ expectations, who don’t understand why this [service reorganisation] is happening.”

She added that the costs-reduction programme has led to a lack of supervision of more junior staff by senior clinicians. The effect, she explained, is that many nurses are worrying about whether they’ve given the appropriate care to their patients.

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12 years ago

these findings will with regret will go on for a long time to come. its very difficult to look after people who need care full time. so to be motivated everyday takes a very special person to do this kind of work, hats of to you. so the people above you should have there job in the bag. or they should not be doing it. end of ?