A new report has revealed that more than 45,000 NHS workers call in sick each day – which is around one and a half times the absence rate seen in the private sector.
Poor mental health, smoking and obesity among staff are also affecting the quality of patient care, according to the study published in the Times.
Higher rates of hospital infection, unnecessary use of agency workers and higher patient death rates were all found in centres with worse staff health. They are also less productive, according to what is being described as the first national audit of NHS staff habits.
Staff health must become a core standard, with all trusts judged annually by the health regulator, the audit's compiler, leading occupational health expert Dr Steve Boorman told the newspaper.
He said: "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.
"The key finding of this review is that health and wellbeing of staff is very important to the quality of patient care, and there are good reasons for prioritising investment in it."
The Department of Health welcomed Dr Boorman's report as an "important initiative".