NHS trusts spent £1bn on sick pay in three years

NHS trusts in England spent more than £1 billion on sick pay over the past three years, according to research by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).

The research, Fit enough for patients? An audit of workplace health and wellbeing services for NHS staff, looked at documents for 163 trusts, which were obtained by the CSP under freedom of information laws.

It found that musculoskeletal conditions, such as back pain, accounted for more than 19.3 million sick days among NHS staff during that period.

The research also found:

  • 37% of NHS trusts do not have a sickness absence strategy in place.
  • The trusts without strategies said their sick pay bills rose by 14% in the past three years, compared to the 4% that had a plan in place.
  • 19% did not offer staff rapid access to physiotherapy to help them stay in work.
  • 31% of trusts could not provide sick pay data for the 2011/2012 financial year.
  • 58% of the 90 respondents that were able to provide sick pay data for the past three years had experienced a rise in sick pay, while 42% had seen it fall.

Phil Gray, chief executive at the CSP, said: “The NHS takes a double hit when an employee is unfit to work.

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“There is the cost of covering that absence, and a gap in provision that can lead to cancellations and longer waiting times.

“In the current climate, we frequently hear that services are being cut because of budget constraints. Instead of cutting services to reduce costs, [it] must invest in rapid access physiotherapy and other occupational health schemes that keep staff in work to help deliver the savings that are needed.”