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This makes us sick

23 November 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 21

Our NHS, in its 75th year, the people who it serves and the people who serve in it, are not in good health. The unrelenting pressures on our NHS are seen as the main cause of a rise in staff illness. This situation will not be remedied any time soon. It is only when our NHS has enough nurses (and other NHS employees), that sickness levels will stop going up. If there is to be a healthy NHS, then what is needed first is a healthy workforce. There has been much focus on recruitment, but there is an urgent need to improve the working conditions of current staff and to protect them from illness, including mental ill health and, in so doing, retain staff.

Last year in England the NHS staff sickness rate was at new high (this is not exclusive to NHS England, other public sector organisations and the NHS in Wales and Scotland are also reporting similar increases in sickness absence). The rate of sickness last year was higher than it was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This record high last year resulted in the health service losing almost 75 000 staff to illness, estimated at 27 million days on average across 2022, equating to around 74 500 full-time equivalent staff, including 20 400 nurses and 2900 doctors (Palmer and Rolewicz, 2023).

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