Rising levels of mental health issues among Yorkshire NHS staff

Thousands of healthcare workers in Yorkshire are signing off sick every year because of stress or anxiety, The Yorkshire Post can reveal today, as new analysis shows the rising toll of mental health issues on the NHS.

More than one million sick days were taken by people working for the national health service in the region from 2013 to 2017, analysis of the NHS’s own data for hospital and community health service staff absences shows.

But at least 15 per cent of all sickness absences recorded in Yorkshire during the same period - about 166,000 - came from staff who signed off with stress or anxiety problems. The number of days lost to anxiety and stress amongst NHS workers in the county has risen for each of the last four years and in 2017 it stood at more than 37,000.

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Regional chiefs at mental health charity Mind have warned that too often mental health is still looked at as an “after-thought” in the workplace, and said employers need to work to address the “big problem” of stress and anxiety.

The Royal College of Nursing has also said that an increasing number of nurses and NHS staff are feeling the “ill health effects” from being under constant pressure and stress, as a result of high vacancy levels and rising patient demand. NHS bosses say hospital trusts provide a variety of support for staff for mental health issues, but warned that the healthcare staff undertake emotionally demanding roles, often helping others get through some of the most difficult times of their lives.

Emma Dallimore, operations director at Hull and East Yorkshire Mind, said: “Too often mental health is an after-thought in the workplace, and yet stress and anxiety is a big problem that employers need to address.

“There is a lot of positive work going on to promote workplace wellbeing, for example providing mental health first aid training as well as physical health first aid training, and promoting a positive workplace wellbeing culture that encourages everyone to look after their own mental health, and to look out for colleagues too.”

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Karl Norwood, operational manager for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Yorkshire, said vacancy levels had left nurses and healthcare assistant’s to “prop up” parts of the NHS.

“More and more nurses and NHS staff are feeling the ill health effects from being under constant pressure and stress,” he said.

“High vacancy levels affect staff as they try to fill these gaps and deal with the ever increasing patient demand. Nurses and healthcare assistants are propping up the NHS by consistently working in excess of their contracted hours and providing last minute shift cover.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “Many NHS staff undertake emotionally demanding roles, helping others through moments of extreme need. Addressing mental health issues in NHS workplaces, including stress and anxiety, is therefore essential.”