Over half a million working days lost in space of 8 weeks due to nhs staff suffering mental ill health

Over half a million working days were lost in the NHS in the space of just two months – due to staff suffering from mental ill health.

New data, which was released by NHS England and comes in Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) shows 586,673 full time equivalent working days were lost for sick leave taken due to ‘anxiety, stress, depression or other psychiatric illnesses’ in November and December 2023.

The highest percentage was seen amongst NHS managers, followed by midwives and ambulance staff.

Time off for mental ill health now makes up 26 percent of all cases among NHS staff.

It is almost double the number of people who were absent because of common winter ailments such as coughs, colds and the ‘flu – which made up 13 per cent of the total.

Lynn Crilly, a counsellor and author who obtained the figures and who specialises in mental ill health, said: “Time and time again we say who is caring for the carers? Yet nobody seems to be acting or listening.

“NHS staff work within very stressful and difficult surroundings, so it’s little wonder many end up suffering, and developing, mental ill health.

“We’re facing a new pandemic in mental health – and NHS staff are just as likely to be impacted as anyone else. We urgently need to improve the level of support our carers receive.”

Commenting on the data, Liam Barnes, the chairman of the Laura Hyde Foundation, which campaigns for greater mental health support for emergency services workers, said: “These statistics are shocking but, sadly, not surprising. We’ve been warning for a long time now that we need to see much better systems put in place for NHS staff who are struggling with their mental health to access support.

“The high numbers of people being forced to take time off only serves to illustrate how badly the NHS is failing in this area.

“Mental ill health has escalated since the covid-pandemic and we are receiving record numbers of calls and contacts from NHS staff needing and requiring support. It isn’t there in too many cases and that needs to change.”

The NHS England data also outlined the other reasons why NHS staff were having to take time off.

It reveals that 8.5% of sickness absence was due to musculoskeletal problems – or 190,367 days across the whole of England – with another 92,503 linked to back problems which can often take the form of long term problems.

A total of 905 days were listed as being due to substance abuse.

Lynn Crilly, who obtained the data.