Norfolk NHS staff take 100,000 sick days in a year due to mental health issues

Stock photo of woman in distress . Photo: Getty Images

Stock photo of woman in distress . Photo: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than 100,000 sick days were taken by NHS staff in Norfolk last year due to mental health struggles, it can be revealed.

Across Norfolk's three hospitals, community trust, mental health trust, ambulance trust - which covers six counties - and the clinical commissioning groups, there were 409,704 sick days taken between December 2017 and November 2018.

But a quarter of these - 100,789 - were due to anxiety, stress, depression, or other psychiatric illnesses.

Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis said it showed how the health service was run on "goodwill and dedication".

He said: "It is really upsetting to see how many of our wonderful NHS staff are having to take time off because just doing their jobs makes them stressed.

"I'm not surprised because I hear staff tell me time and time again just how much it hurts to not be able to do their jobs properly."

Mental health was by far the most common reason for a sick day, with the next most common being colds, coughs and the flu with 38,698 days.

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Andrew Palmer, director of transformation and workforce at the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston said: "Staff work to save lives and care for people at some of the most difficult times of their lives. This can have a toll on the health and wellbeing of our staff and we recognise that we always need to do more to support our teams who work under these pressures."

He said workshops, helplines, and access to coping strategies were on offer to staff, plus help from the chaplaincy team and classes such as yoga and pilates.

Bohdan Solomka, medical director at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, said: : "Sadly, stress, depression and anxiety continue to be an issue across the whole UK workforce, especially in public service organisations such as the NHS, which is facing ever-increasing demand on its services. And working within a mental health trust has its own unique pressures on the emotional wellbeing of staff.

"We are always endeavouring to alleviate some of the pressures through a continuous programme of recruitment and offer a range of support services to help staff. These include independent, confidential counselling services and training to help managers and staff recognise times of pressure or stress and adopt techniques to take care of themselves or colleagues."

While a spokesman for East of England Ambulance Trust said: "Following our signing of Mind's Blue Light programme pledge over three years ago, we have worked hard to rid the trust of any stigma surrounding mental health."

He said there were a range of services available to crews, including trauma management.

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, a spokesman said: "We take the health and wellbeing of our staff seriously. We have an award-winning attendance policy at NNUH, which was introduced in partnership with our staff and trade unions."

Josie Spencer, chief executive at Norfolk Community Health and Care added: "How our staff feel when they are at work is integral to the successful delivery of outstanding patient care."

She said the trust had reviewed and relaunched its staff mental health and wellbeing policy, had a 24/7 counselling service, and trained 100 managers to support staff with the mental wellbeing, among other initiatives.

Cath Castleton, associate director of human resources at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, said: "The health and wellbeing of our staff is an absolute priority, and we have a number of initiatives and services in place to support our staff. We also recognise that there a number of factors which impact on an individual's home and work life so it is important that we support our colleagues where and when they need it."