One in six Oxford hospital staff absences are due to stress

Under pressure: Hospital staff say stress levels are increasing
Under pressure: Hospital staff say stress levels are increasing

One in six staff absences in Oxford University Hospitals Trust over the past year were stress-related, new figures show.

Health think tank The King’s Fund said staff shortages across the NHS must be addressed to ease stress and heavy workloads.

NHS Digital figures show there were roughly 33,500 full-time equivalent days lost due to stress-related absences in the year to June at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, accounting for 17.5 per cent of the total 191,300 days lost.

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It is up from 15.6 per cent of staff absences in 2021-22.

The figures cover all professionally qualified clinical staff, clinical support staff, and infrastructure support staff who were absent due to anxiety, stress, depression or other psychiatric illnesses.

Alex Baylis, The King's Fund assistant director of policy, said the Health and Safety Executive has found health and care staff consistently report higher rates of work-related stress. He added a key cause of this stress is "chronic excessive workload.”

He said: "Workload pressure can particularly come from things like working extra hours, or managing a higher number of patients, because of staff shortages.

"It can build up if that’s the situation day after day. And it can be exacerbated by things like working across chaotic teams or processes, not having the equipment that’s needed, not having breaks, or unsupportive managers."

Oxford Mail: The Churchill Hospital
Oxford Mail: The Churchill Hospital

The Churchill Hospital While leadership at team level is essential in supporting staff, Mr Baylis added the overall NHS staff shortages must be addressed.

"Although everyone wants to reduce the current long waiting times as quickly as possible, that must not override the need for a culture of supportive management and supervision," he said.

Across all NHS England organisations, 6.1 million FTE days were lost to stress-related staff absences. They made up nearly a quarter (23.9 per cent) of all days lost in the year to June.

It is relatively in line with the year prior but down significantly from 27.7 per cent in 2020-21.

Overall, 25.5 million days were lost to staff absences in 2022-23, marking a fall from 26.6 million days the year before.

Dr Billy Palmer, Nuffield Trust senior fellow, said the high sickness absence rate in the NHS adds to costs and disruptions to care.

"If staff who are off sick cannot be covered by temporary staffing, this has a direct impact on those receiving care, and those stuck on waiting lists waiting for care."

He added: "The level of staff sickness related to mental illness, anxiety and stress, which are bundled together in this data, is a troubling indicator of the pressure being experienced by NHS workers."


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

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