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Annual NHS national sickness absence rate declines to lowest level in five years

July 22, 2014: Annual NHS national sickness absence rates in England are at their lowest point since 2009-10, when they first started being recorded by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) (2). The latest figures show that NHS workers on average had one day off sick out of every 25 (14.82 days a year) in 2013-14 a 4.06 per cent absence rate. This is a decrease in the number of days off sick from 2012-13, when the sickness absence rate stood at 4.24 per cent, one day off out of every 24 (15.52 days a year).

*HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures
*Regional data available from this report

The NHS Sickness Absence rates report looks at the findings for the last five financial years and, in 2013-14, relates to about 1.063 million full time equivalent (FTE) workers4 in the NHS in England (excluding GPs and practice staff).

Sickness absence rates are calculated using FTE headcount and are based on calendar days therefore including non-working days.

The sickness absence rates for staff groups5 in 2013-14 showed:

  • Ambulance staff had the highest sickness absence rate at 6.20 per cent compared to 6.55 per cent in 2012-13 and 6.38 per cent in 2009-10.
  • Hospital doctors had the lowest sickness absence rate at 1.22 per cent compared to 1.25 in 2012-13 and 1.21 per cent in 2009-10.
  • Qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff had a sickness absence rate of 4.50 per cent, compared to 4.72 per cent in 2012-13 and 4.83 per cent in 2009-10.
  • Infrastructure support staff6 (which includes clerical, estates and managerial staff) had a sickness absence rate of 3.58 per cent of staff compared to 3.75 per cent in 2012-13 and 3.92 per cent in 2009-10.

Regionally7, staff in the North West had the highest sickness absence rate of 4.60 per cent, compared to 4.69 per cent in 2012-13 and 4.86 per cent in 2009-10. The lowest rate was in North Central and East London at 3.36 per cent, compared to 3.45 per cent in 2012-13 and 3.50 per cent in 2009-10.

HSCIC chair Kingsley Manning said: "The NHS workforce is diverse in terms of the occupations and skills needed, compared to many other business sectors. Staff can be faced with situations that are physically and psychologically demanding which could increase the risk of illness and injury.

"Today's report shows that NHS staff absence rates have decreased over the last five years, with one day out of 25 being lost due to illness.

"It is important that NHS organisations are able to monitor absences at all levels to ensure that they have a full picture of the health and well-being of the NHS workforce that provides care to patients seven days a week, 365 days of the year."

The report is at:


 Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). It is England's trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 220 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.
  2. Prior to starting this quarterly publication series the HSCIC (and DH previously) published sickness absence statistics on a yearly basis with the last publication in 2006 using 2005 data. Rates in these surveys and the latest rates are not directly comparable due to the differences in these surveys' methodologies.
  3. Workforce figures from March 2014.
  4. The report relates to sickness absence rates for staff at NHS organisations in England on the Electronic Staff Record (ESR); a payroll and human resources system. It contains records for all NHS employed staff with the exception of GPs and those employed at the two foundation trusts that are not on the system (Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust). A monthly extract is downloaded from the ESR Data Warehouse detailing the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) calendar days available and the number of FTE calendar days of sickness absence for each member of staff in that month. Sickness absence rates are then calculated for the English NHS and for each SHA, staff group, organisation type and individual organisation by dividing the total number of sickness absence days by the total number of available days for each group.
  5. It is possible that higher rates may be in part the result of good management systems and lower rates may in part be due to under recording.
  6. NHS infrastructure support includes staff in: central functions - (e.g. personnel, finance, IT, legal services and library services); hotel, property & estates (e.g. laundry, catering, caretakers and domestic services, gardeners, builders, electricians); administrative managers & senior managers.
  7. Regional data refers to Health Education England areas.
  8. Care should be taken in the interpretation of wider comparisons using these figures. When comparing across sectors comparisons may only be relevant with business areas that involve infectious conditions, traumatic situations and assaults on employees.
  9. For media enquiries please contact or 0300 303 3888.
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