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Fit enough for patients? An audit of workplace health and wellbeing services for NHS staff

The Boorman Review set a clear goal for the NHS - improve the care of staff to improve the care for patients.

Dr Boorman's report identified potential savings for the NHS of £555 million a year if sickness absence among staff was tackled with early intervention occupational health services, such as physiotherapy.

However, three years on, and despite the implementation of the Boorman recommendations being included in the NHS Operating Framework, sickness absence rates are still high and the NHS is still failing to consistently protect the wellbeing of its staff.

Headline findings

The headline findings from the CSP's Fit Enough for Patients? report are as follows:

  • More than a third (37 per cent) of the 163 trusts that responded to the CSP’s freedom of information (FoI) request admitted to not having a health and wellbeing strategy in place
  • Trusts without strategies saw sick pay rise by 14 per cent in the past three years, as opposed to four per cent for those with a plan in place
  • Of the 90 trusts that were able to provide sick pay data for the past three years, 58 per cent had seen a rise, while just 42 per cent had seen it fall
  • The combined amount spent on sick pay by the 90 trusts in the past three years exceeded £1 billion - at a time when the NHS is being asked to save £20 billion by 2015
  • Forty per cent of NHS staff sickness absence is due to musculoskeletal conditions, such as back, neck and joint pain.  Across the NHS that means, over the past three full financial years, more than 19.3 million sick days have been taken by staff because of these conditions
  • Nearly one in five trusts (19 per cent) did not offer staff rapid access to physiotherapy to help them stay in work and reduce waiting times for patients.

Physiotherapy services play a vital role in improving staff health and wellbeing.  Evidence has shown that early access to physiotherapy can reduce staff sickness rates, stop people going off sick at all or help them return to work more quickly.

The CSP strongly believes that investing in good occupational health services and prioritising staff health and wellbeing can have clear benefits for NHS trusts and their patients:

  • Improved patient care, delivered by fit and healthy staff
  • Lower waiting times as a result of fewer cancelled appointments
  • Reduced sickness absence and associated costs of temporary staff
  • Potential savings which could be invested in patient care

We hope this report will make a constructive contribution and will be useful to the NHS Commissioning Board and NHS trusts as they put their own plans in place for improving the health and wellbeing of staff.

Please use the PDF document link below to download a copy of this CSP audit of workplace health and wellbeing services for NHS staff.


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