NORTH Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has called on the Welsh Government to address the causes of staff sickness in the Welsh NHS.
This comes after a Freedom of Information request this month revealed that thousands of NHS Wales employees haven taken more than seven days sickness absence because of mental health conditions in the past three years.
Questioning the Health Minister over the revelations in the Assembly Chamber this week, Mr Isherwood asked what action the Welsh Government is taking to support NHS staff.
He said: “Organisations with effective staff development and performance management are those with lower absenteeism and sickness rates. Yet, you will be aware that the results of a freedom of information request published this month show that almost 10,000 NHS Wales members of staff have been off for more than a week through stress, anxiety and depression since 2011. A third of those were in Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board.
“Given the concerns raised in the Wales Audit Office report on NHS finances and the Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales report on corporate governance in Betsi Cadwaladr, what action is the Welsh Government taking to ensure that those effective staff development procedures are implemented to support the staff affected?”
The Minister said the issue of sickness levels in the Welsh NHS is matter of concern to him.
He said: “It varies from place to place as the Member identified. There are LHBs in Wales that do better in this area than others. We have services in Wales, occupational health services, that work within the NHS to assist staff. There is no doubt that the impact of austerity is felt in the lives of people who work in the NHS. There is no wonder that, sometimes, those pressures come with them into the workplace. However, the Welsh Government is fully engaged in this agenda, working at a senior level to assist our local health boards to address it actively.”
Mr Isherwood added: “High levels of sickness absence are an indicator of a sick management culture and we should be tackling the causes of sickness rather than simply treating the symptoms.”