Over one in five sick days taken by nurses were due to mental health reasons such as anxiety, stress, and depression, the latest data reveals.
Sickness absence data released this week showed that in June, 22% of full time days lost by the nursing workforce were due to mental health issues, making this the most common reason for nurses to miss work.
RCN interim director of nursing, Helen Whyley, said that the new figures should be ‘sounding alarm bells’ in the office of the new health secretary.
‘It comes as no surprise with more than 47,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England, record waiting lists, and patients being treated in corridors. Nursing staff are being pushed to the brink.
‘When pressures at the start of summer leave so many staff off sick, it raises real concerns about what will happen when the winter crisis begins,’ she said.
In June there were 125,123 days full time equivalent days lost due to mental health, down slightly from 127,709 the month prior. However, there were 20,898 more days lost overall in June than in May. This was largely due to a significant increase in the number of days lost due to coughs, colds, flu, and influenza.
A spokesperson for the the DHSC said: ‘We will be investing an additional £45 million over the next year to support the continuation of the 40 mental health and wellbeing hubs for NHS staff, in addition to specialist mental health training programmes and support schemes for staff.
‘We have commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce plan to recruit and retain more staff. We will consider it when ready and provide an update in due course.’