More than 45,000 NHS workers call in sick each day - around one and a half times the absence rate seen in the private sector, according to the interim report of a review that includes the first national audit of NHS staff habits.
The quality of patient care is also being affected by obesity, smoking and poor mental health among staff, according to the study. Researchers found hospitals with worse staff health are less productive and have higher rates of superbug infection, unnecessary use of agency workers and higher patient death rates.
The audit's compiler, leading occupational health expert Dr Steve Boorman, told The Times that staff health must become a core standard, with all trusts judged annually by the health regulator. 'It is ironic that the NHS is trying to focus on the public health agenda yet not making it available to its own staff, because staff should be exemplars,' he said.
'The key finding of this review is that health and well-being of staff is very important to the quality of patient care, and there are good reasons for prioritising investment in it.'
Dr Boorman told us; 'It's been a great opportunity to work with the NHS and DH to undertake this work. I believe this helps to highlight that the NHS already does some good things to support its staff but has room for improvement.'
More than 80% of the 11,337 NHS staff who took part in the review's survey said their state of health affects the quality of the patient care they deliver.
As well as the obvious financial benefits of reducing staff sickness, NHS trusts that take health and well-being seriously perform constantly better on measures of quality, patient safety and efficiency, the study found. Dr Boorman says 'there is a clear relationship between staff health and well-being and patient satisfaction'.
There is also a clear relationship between staff health and well-being and Trusts' assessment in the Annual Health Check ratings which are currently used to assess a health provider's performance. Dr Boorman says: 'It will be important that any replacement for the Annual Health Check can be clearly related to staff health and well-being.'
The staff survey forms part of Dr Boorman's NHS Health and Well-Being Review, the interim report of which is now available. Dr Boorman will now spend the next few months consulting with NHS staff and government officials before drawing up a final report later this year.
In a letter to the Times, MHF president Dr Ian Banks said: 'Dr Boorman's report does show that some NHS organisations along with others such as Royal Mail and Ginsters are setting the example of how health and work should be combined. All NHS bodies need to be at least as good as the best in this field to prevent patient care suffering.
'We need investment by the NHS and business in male friendly health improvement services in the workplace — something highlighted by Dr Boorman. Men are still about twice as likely to work full time and are reluctant users of primary care. Work done by the Men's Health Forum has shown that the workplace enables primary care and public health services to more effectively reach men. LSE's analysis for Royal Mail and PriceWaterhouseCoopers' research for Professor Black's review of health and work show that employers investing in health is good for business.'
Page created on August 19th, 2009
Page updated on January 15th, 2010