Mental health chief vows to improve staff morale as depression, stress and anxiety hits one in four sick workers

PUBLISHED: 09:48 22 January 2015 | UPDATED: 16:21 22 January 2015

Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Photo: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

One in four staff off sick at the region’s mental health trust are themselves suffering from mental health issues.

Stress and the NHS

Tens of thousands of NHS working days are lost to stress, anxiety and depression each year in our region, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

It has prompted health chiefs to put schemes in place to reduce the numbers.

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston has the second highest percentage of days lost to stress, after the NSFT, with around 9,000 days taken.

The hospital now has a new occupational health provider, which includes face-to-face support and a phone line for staff.

There is also training for managers to understand more about mental health conditions, a spokesman said.

The East of England Ambulance Trust loses around 20,000 staff days a year to stress, anxiety and depression.

“Staff wellbeing is of the utmost importance and we have a number of support mechanisms available 24/7 to make sure everyone gets any help and advice they need in the line of duty,” the trust’s chief executive Anthony Marsh said.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn reported a drop in days lost to stress to around 13 per cent of all sick absences in 2014, equating to 6,000 calendar days a year.

Staff at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital took more than 17,000 days off last year with mental health issues _ accounting for a fifth of all sick leave. The hospital supports its staff through a team which offers counselling. “Our aim is to provide our hardworking staff with the best possible care,” a spokesman said.

Around 19,000 calendar days a year are lost to stress, anxiety and depression at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), accounting for more than 25% of all sick days.

Mental health problems are hitting staff more than at any other health trust in the region, figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show.

Chief executive Michael Scott said he had made improving staff morale and wellbeing his top priority since he joined last year.

Staff sickness rates are around 5%, against a target of 4.8%, but that absence rate is being made worse by the numbers off with stress, anxiety and depression.

Emma Corlett, Unison steward at the NSFT, said: “The figures match what we have seen on the ground.

“There are a number of factors that have impacted on staff, including significant loss of resources and the reorganisation of services.

“The consequences of that was people applying for their own 
jobs and in some cases colleagues were competing for the same job having worked together for 20 years.

“People are managing a high case load and being stressed because they know patients who need to be seen are not being seen.”

Health watchdog the Care Quality Commission identified in a report in November that the number of sick days among medical staff at the trust was a major risk.

But the NSFT said it had put a series of measures in place to cut stress and increase staff morale.

Mr Scott said: “We are far from where we should be and we need to do all we can to improve wellbeing and the morale of our people.

“This is a very difficult time for any member of staff working in the NHS where we see increasing demand upon services and upon the energy and goodwill of our staff members.”

Training is being given to help managers support colleagues under pressure.

The trust also has a 24-hour counselling service and staff can get discounts at gyms.

Mr Scott said the trust also ran a course for staff to manage their own health and wellbeing.

“Most importantly, we need to let our staff know that they have a voice which is heard, that they are valued and that they can help us make where they work a much better place to be,” Mr Scott added.

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