Worcestershire NHS Bosses send staff on two day training course to cut sick leave

Last month the trust spent £1,196,000 on temporary staff, a big increase from October when the figure was £808,000 Because of the Norovirus .

HOSPITAL Bosses in Worcestershire could save £2 million a year if they cut staff sickness levels by just half of one per cent.

A self-care programme for 86 staff has already saved NHS hospital bosses in Worcestershire £130,000 in two years by helping them cut their number of sick days.

The two-day course, managed internally, helps staff at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester look at issues such as their lifestyle, diet and balancing work with their other commitments and responsibilities to reduce the number of days they take off sick.

When a doctor, nurse or healthcare assistant is off sick it costs Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust both sick pay and paying expensive bank and agency staff to cover shifts.

On average for this year, 4.1 per cent of WAH NHS Trust’s 5,500 staff are off sick at any one time, within the NHS average and an improvement on the rate of sickness in 2007 which was about five per cent.

Liz Preece, an occupational therapist who works for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, gave a presentation at Worcester-shire Royal Hospital.

She said: “We know from the research that individuals who have high levels of short term sickness absence are likely to continue with that pattern of absence.

“The biggest single predictor of sickness absence is a previous history of sickness absence.”

Since April the trust has been forced to sack 12 staff on long term sickness although some staff are suspended from work on medical grounds if they have symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting which can spread to patients and lead to ward closures. This has happened recently at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch because of norovirus.

Last month the trust spent £1,196,000 on temporary staff, a big increase from October when the figure was £808,000.

The rising costs are partly to cover staff sickness but also to cover unfilled vacancies and to staff the increased number of beds opened over the winter to deal with increased patient numbers.

Of this £1,196,000, £445,000 was spent on temporary nursing and £691,000 on medical agency and locum costs.

Bev Edgar, interim director of director of human resources, said: “I think the danger is that we think all temporary spending isn’t good and that isn’t the case at all.

“The purpose of a flexible workforce is to have people on hand at a time when we need the right resources, for example reopening a ward or where we have had to close wards because of infection.”

Mrs Edgar said “the foot came off the pedal” in terms of recruiting staff but that there was now rolling advertising for both nurses and healthcare assistants.

She added: “We have put some pressure back on recruitment and nursing teams to get those posts filled as quickly as possible.”