NHS hospitals saw almost 4,000 work days lost as pressure leads to increase in staff signing off with work with stress.
The NHS ‘winter crisis’ is very much in the news at the minute, with operations being cancelled and patients waiting hours to be treated in hospitals up and down the country – and the Royal College of Nursing Union has called attention to another side effect of the growing pressures facing the NHS.
In Sheffield alone last year there were a total of 3,917 lost work days in NHS hospitals to stress, which amounts to almost 12,000 shifts by NHS staff. Union chiefs have said the figures “do not come as a surprise” as nurses and other NHS staff are regularly working in “excess of their contracted hours”, providing “last minute cover” and are effectively “propping up the NHS”.
The Yorkshire branch of the Royal College of Nursing said that the figures for Sheffield hospitals coincide with 3,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in the county and 40,000 in total across the country – putting extra strain on an already stretched work force.
Sheffield hospital bosses responded that the figure of lost days was “less than 1% of the total number of days worked” in what is England’s second largest NHS trust. They also added that staff had access to psychological services and mindfulness sessions to help with stress.
Glenn Turp, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing in the Yorkshire and the Humber said of the figures:
Sadly this doesn’t come as a surprise. More and more nurses and staff across the NHS are feeling the ill health effects from being under constant pressure and stress.
There are over 40,000 nursing vacancies across England and 3,000 vacancies in Yorkshire and the Humber. High vacancies levels affects staff as they try to fill these gaps and deal with ever increasing patient demand.
Over stretched staff suffer the consequence personally.
The RCN have released a new report titled ‘Safe and Effective Staffing: Nursing against the Odds’ which highlights the affect work pressure and stress has on many nurses own health, with 36.7% feeling unwell due to work-related stress.
Glenn Turp continued:
This is another reminder for the Government of how NHS staff across the board are straining to hold things together. The Government needs to show that it values those working under immense pressure taking care of patients, when they are most vulnerable, people will be deterred from joining the nursing profession and others will feel no choice but to leave it.
Mark Gwilliam, director of human resources at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
We believe that for our staff to provide the best care to patients, we also need to take care of their health and wellbeing.
We have 17,000 employees and our sickness levels are at the lowest levels for some time at 3.7% and sick days due to stress represent less than 1% of the total number of days worked.
We want to do all we can to help staff cope with any stress from work or home circumstances which is why we have a number of free services to offer support including a specialist psychological service, free headspace app for all employees and mindfulness sessions. We also try to make the work environment as supportive as possible to enable our teams to manage stressful situations.