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Sick days for Kent NHS staff at highest level for six years

By Dean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter

The total number of sick days taken by staff at an NHS trust providing mental health and social care services in Kent has topped 50,000 for the first time in six years, new data has revealed.

Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) recorded 53,536 “full-time equivalent days lost to sickness (including non-working days)” in 2017-18, compared to 47,127 in the previous year.

NHS Digital’s data showed the rate of absence stood at 4.95% – the highest since the statistic was first recorded in 2009-10, and higher than the most-recent national rate of 4.51%.

A nurse preparing medicines. Stock image
A nurse preparing medicines. Stock image

The number of lost days had not previously reached such levels since 2011-12.

A trust spokesman said: “Working in mental health is incredibly rewarding. Some of our patients stay with the trust for long periods of time and make strong connections with staff.

“Whilst this work is incredibly fulfilling, it can also prove to be stressful and it is important we ensure support is available for our staff.”

KMPT, which works closely with both Kent County Council and Medway Council, says it has a range of wellbeing initiatives including “MOT days”, stress management, and mental health training.

The spokesman added: “The trust has implemented an electronic system to ensure accurate and timely sickness reporting, management and support is available.

“We have since seen improved reporting of reasons for sickness and have strengthened support mechanisms for staff reporting personal and work-related stress, including staff counselling and occupational health.

“Our health and wellbeing project group has already received positive feedback from staff, and we will continue these positive, preventative steps to help our dedicated and caring workforce.”

Meanwhile, Medway NHS Foundation Trust recorded 55,304 “full-time equivalent days lost to sickness (including non-working days)”.

“We have since seen improved reporting of reasons for sickness and have strengthened support mechanisms for staff reporting personal and work-related stress, including staff counselling and occupational health..." - Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust spokesman

This equates to a rate of 3.83%, its lowest since 2013-14.

James Devine, deputy chief executive, said: “We are pleased that our sickness absence rate has consistently been below the national absence rate.

“We have a number of supportive measures in place for both staff and line managers to manage attendance.

“Line managers across the trust receive sickness absence management training, which helps them support colleagues who are absent due to illness, and we have benefitted from the use of an electronic absence management platform which enables us to identify colleagues who may be in need of more support to prevent potential absences.

Mr Devine also highlighted the trust’s own schemes, including yoga, fitness classes, a healthy weight club, and access to counselling and physiotherapy services.

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