HSCIC report: NHS sickness absence rates continue to decrease

NHS employees in England had a sickness absence rate of 4.12% in 2011/12, slightly lower than the two previous years, according to a report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The report presents sickness absence information recorded by the English NHS for the last three financial years and covers about 1.04 million full-time workers, excluding GPs and practice staff.

The 4.12% rate equates to about 15.56 million days lost to sickness, which includes non-working days if they fall within a reported absence period.

The 2011/12 rate compares to 4.16% recorded in 2010/11 (about 15.95 million days) and 4.40% recorded in 2009/10 (about 16.75 million days).

The report found that sickness absence rates generally decreased with increasing pay grade, when considering the payment and grading system for NHS staff, excluding doctors, dentists and some managers.

Band two, the second lowest grade of nine, recorded the highest rate of sickness absence at 5.91% (3.03 million days) and also the highest rate in 2010/11 (5.97% or 3.13 million days). This band had the second highest rate in 2009/10 (6.33% or 3.35 million days), after band one.

The report also found:

  • Qualified ambulance workers recorded the highest rate of any main staff group at 6.18% (405,000 days) and also the highest rate in the previous two years (6.18% or 401,000 days in 2010/11 and 6.38% or 404,000 days in 2009/10).
  • Doctors (excluding GPs) recorded the lowest rate of any main staff group at 1.19% (427,000 days) and also the lowest rate in the previous two years (1.16% or 410,000 days in 2010/11 and 1.21% or 415,000 days in 2009/10).
  • Regionally, the North East had the highest rate at 4.55% (1.03 million days) in 2011/12. It had the joint highest rate in 2010/11 at 4.60% (1.05 million days) along with North West. The North East also had the highest rate in 2009/10 at 4.98% (1.12 million days).
  • London had the lowest rate at 3.51% (2.10 million days) and also the lowest rate in the previous two years (3.47% or 2.10 million in 2010/11 and 3.64% or 2.15 million days in 2009/10).

Tim Straughan, chief executive at HSCIC, said: “Although we have been publishing quarterly figures about sickness absence in the NHS workforce for the last three years, this is the first time we have presented an annual time series. This information is vital to estimating lost days within the country’s largest workforce.

“The report shows that, generally, sickness absence has fallen, compared to three years ago, with the sickness absence rate falling from 4.40% in 2009/10 to around 4.12% in 2011/12.”

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