06th January 2011 Concern as NHS Hit by High Level of Staff Absenteeism Due to Sickness
FLU AND COLDS CITED AS REASON FOR £6M COST OF MORE THAN 35,000 NHS STAFF SICK DAYS ON JANUARY 4 AND 5
FirstCare,the leading provider of absence management and a full range of occupational health services, recorded that a staggering 36,900 days have been lost due to cough, cold and flu-related staff absence in the National Health Service on 4 and 5 January, the first days back to work after the festive break.
577,000 days have been lost today and yesterday due to flu and flu-like symptoms, meaning that the absent NHS staff equates to 6.5% of all those who were afflicted with coughs, colds and flu following the holiday season. NHS workers’ absence rates due to these seasonal symptoms are usually 32% higher than the non-NHS employees FirstCare cover, but since Tuesday 4 January this figure has increased to 47%. This suggests that concerns around the current outbreak of flu are well-founded, and are possibly reflective of the continued spread of swine flu. Some experts have commented that the UK is undergoing the worst flu pandemic in a decade.
Although general absence rates across the UK have decreased during the past two months with the melting snow, cold and flu-related absences are trending approximately 12% higher than for the same period last year, with the NHS trending significantly higher than other non-NHS clients. Compared to January 2010, around 4,000 more NHS staff absences were recorded across Tuesday and Wednesday, at a total cost of around £6,088,500 to the NHS.
While private sector employers are sceptical of staff calling in sick at this time of year, FirstCare Chief Executive Aaron Ross, says, “NHS workers absence rates are such a good barometer of likely trends in cough, cold and flu absences, due to the nature of their work, so we can expect to see a general increase across the working population in the coming days”.
As the leading UK company offering outsourced absence management, FirstCare looks after over 100,000 employees and has contracts with over 70 separate organisations including BAE, Coca Cola, Argos, various hospital trusts and an increasing number of local authorities. Most organisations using FirstCare see cash savings in the region of £250k for every 1,000 employees on the service.