Winter will be tough for NHS nurses amid high sickness rates

That’s according to the Royal College of Nursing

NHS nurses are experiencing more sickness, including for anxiety and depression, than before the pandemic and face a tough winter that could impact patient care, nursing leaders have warned.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) analysed figures for staff sickness from before the pandemic and earlier this year, and found thousands of days lost to staff absence on already overstretched wards.

The NHS in England recorded over 18% more sick days among nurses and health visitors in May 2021 compared to May 2019 (73,209 more sick days).

The analysis showed staff are now more at risk of mental health problems, chest and respiratory problems and migraines than before the pandemic.

Since May 2019, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) days lost for mental health reasons has increased by 31.4%, from 102,491 in 2019 to 134,669 in 2021.

Meanwhile, days lost due to chest and respiratory problems rose by 52.5% (from 10,949 to 16,696) and headaches or migraine rose by 51.9% (from 9,105 to 13,833).

Anxiety, stress or depression remains the most common reason for staff sickness.

As a proportion of all days lost, this has increased by 3.3% throughout the pandemic, from 25.5% in 2020 to 28.3% in 2021.

The RCN said the NHS is already suffering from widespread nursing vacancies in England and the health service could come under huge pressure if sickness absence rates rise, with an impact on patient care.

It argued nursing staff face a difficult winter in treating the backlog of NHS care, working on the flu and Covid booster vaccine programmes and dealing with the usual seasonal pressures, including an expected surge in flu patients.

Published: by Radio NewsHub