Staff sickness rates at NHS Borders have rocketed to near record highs in what is the latest warning sign that staff aren’t being supported by the Scottish Government.
Sickness absences in NHS Scotland can result in cancelled appointments and procedures, they put pressure on staff and cost money as bank and agency staff are employed to cover. The Scottish Government has therefore set a target for NHS Boards to achieve a sickness absence rate of 4 per cent or less. In 2017/18 NHS Scotland had a sickness absence rate of 5.39 per cent.
Figures provided in response to a Freedom of Information request reveal that the latest figures show a staff sickness absence rate of 6.03 per cent, up from 5.14 per cent on the previous year. In the last 18 months, the rate has only been higher in January 2018 at 6.58 per cent.
If the increases continue, it will mean that the annual figure for 2019 is set to be even higher than the previous high, set in 2018 of 5.23 per cent.
The sickness absence rate is calculated as hours lost divided by total contracted hours.
In its 2017/18 annual report, Audit Scotland warned that sickness absence rates at NHS Borders “requires to be monitored and addressed by management” and that the “underlying issues” around staff sickness needed to be addressed.
Commenting, John Lamont MP said: “The reason there is a national target for staff sickness rates in the NHS is because absences can result in cancelled operations and appointments, put pressure on staff and also result in increased spending on staff to provide cover.
“These rates show NHS Borders, like every other health board in Scotland, is struggling to meet its target and the trend is getting worse.
“Staff certainly shouldn’t be going to work when ill, but the fact that so many are taking time off sick, just highlights the difficult conditions our doctors and nurses are being forced to work in. Stress and difficult working conditions can contribute to illness and so we need to look closely at what can be done to make sure staff are supported and staffing levels are adequate.
“Something has got to change and the Scottish Government need to make sure that staff at rural health boards like NHS Borders are properly supported so that the underlying issues behind these absence rates are addressed.”