Local NHS staff sickness levels drop

Female physician in lab coat and mask isolated on white

Female physician in lab coat and mask isolated on white

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SICKNESS absence among staff at East Lancashire’s hospitals – a long-standing problem – has finally fallen in the past 12 months.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust’s Fast Physio service has been cited for reducing sickness absence by more than 11%.

It has helped more than 500 employees either return to work or avoid time off with its support and treatment for back and joint pain.

More than a third of all sickness absence in the UK is caused by musculoskeletal problems.

Clinical lead physiotherapist Lee Barnes, who runs the service, said: “We have been running our Fast Physio service since last September, and we have been really pleased with our staff’s response to it.

“Some staff just need advice on useful stretches to help keep their joints healthy, while others need more intensive intervention and treatment.”

All staff at East Lancashire Hospitals can also access free 24-hour counselling services, either over the phone or face-to-face, as well as information from exercise plans to financial advice through the First Assist employee assistance programme’s website.

The initiatives are also supported by a more robust staff sickness absence policy, which helps to ensure absence is appropriately managed across the organisation.

Director of human resources Ian Brandwood said: “The vast majority of people want to be at work and not at home feeling ill, so we want to do everything we can to help them.

“By doing that, we help not only our own staff, but also our patients, by making sure they are looked after by healthy, happy staff and reducing the money we have to spend on temporary doctors and nurses. This year, we have reduced our spending on temporary staff by 10%.

“We have come a long way, but there is still scope for further improvement. Next month, we will launch our revamped Health and Wellbeing Strategy. This further strengthens our commitment to offering help and treatment at the earliest signs of staff illness.”