Ministers must ‘urgently invest in nursing’ and ‘address the unrelenting pressure’ on the workforce, the RCN has urged, after a 20% rise in sick days for mental health reasons over two years.
In February 2022, 128,161 full-time equivalent (FTE) working days were lost due to nursing staff in England being unable to work due to anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illnesses, NHS Digital data released on 30 June shows.
This is a 20% increase on 107,237 days in February 2020 – although the proportion of mental health sick days out of all days lost lower in February 2022 (22.2%) than in February 2020 (25.4%).
The RCN also said it has ‘recently seen a spike’ in the number of calls to its advice line from members seeking support with work-related mental health issues.
Sickness absence rates across all NHS groups in February 2022 stood at 5.59%, compared to 4.49% in February 2020, the data shows.
For nurses and health visitors, the overall sickness absence rate in February 2022 was 6.1%, compared to 4.66% in February 2020.
Patricia Marquis, RCN’s director for England, said: ‘The pressure on nursing shows no sign of abating. Not only has Covid-19 taken its toll, but the workforce crisis is putting huge strain on nursing as it struggles to provide safe and effective care for ever-rising numbers of patients.’
She continued: ‘Ministers must urgently invest in nursing, starting with a pay rise which significantly exceeds the cost of living, and address the unrelenting pressures which are having a devastating impact on staff wellbeing.’
This comes as the RCN has been campaigning for a pay increase of 5% above inflation for NHS staff in England in 2022/23 ‘to help address the cost-of-living crisis and encourage people to join and stay in the nursing profession to alleviate staffing pressures.’