Over one-third of all sickness absences for nurses and health visitors were related to Covid-19 in April, during the peak of the virus, according to NHS Digital figures released.
The data showed that in April, 256,053 full-time equivalent (FTE) nursing days were lost owing to Covid-19 related sickness, equating to 37.6% of absences. This compared to 17.5% in March and 23.3% in May.
It also revealed that in May, 25% (136,174) of the days lost to sickness absence in nurses and health visitors were due to anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illnesses, up from 17.3% (121,031) in April.
Overall, 1,349,599 days of work were lost in the NHS in England across all staff groups because of coronavirus-related sickness over March, April and May – around 22% of the nearly 6.1 million FTE sickness days lost during the period, the figures released on Thursday last week showed.
In addition, during the peak of the outbreak in April, there were 690,569 FTE days lost due to Covid-19 – 30.6% of the nearly 2.3 million absences recorded that month.
Labour shadow minister for mental health Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP said the figures were a ‘wake-up call’ that the Government must deliver a mental health support package for health and care staff.
Dr Allin-Khan continued: ‘At a time when Covid-19 related sickness absences were going down, mental ill health absences were soaring.’
NHS Providers director for policy and strategy Miriam Deakin: ‘Nearly one in five days lost due to absence during May were Covid-related.
‘Providing a safe environment for staff and patients is an absolute priority for trusts which is why capacity for regular testing is so important.’
Last week, a Public Accounts Committee report said nursing staff were showing signs of burnout since the Covid-19 outbreak, raising concerns that this could worsen existing vacancies.