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NHS staff: average worker takes an estimated 9.5 working days off sick a year

Slight increase in national sick rate on previous year, with ambulance staff most affected

*HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures

*Chart below available for media use

NHS workers in England took an estimated 9.5 working days off sick last year according to a Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) report, which also points to a slight rise in sickness absence rates.

This latest figure - for 2012-13 - compares to an estimated 9.3 working days in 2011-12 and 9.9 working days in 2009-10, the first year of reporting.

The findings for the last four financial years relate to about 1.05 million full time equivalent workers5 in the English NHS (excluding GPs and practice staff) and are based on applying the measured sickness absence rate to an assumed full time working pattern of 225 days a year. It is estimated that in 2012-13 average sick days per person equated to:

  • 14.7 days for qualified ambulance staff, compared to 13.9 in 2011-12 and 14.4 in 2009-10.
  • 2.8 days for hospital doctors, compared to 2.7 days in 2011-12 and 2.7 days in 2009-10.
  • 10.6 days for qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff, compared to 10.2 days in 2011-12 and 10.9 days in 2009-10.
  • 8.4 days for infrastructure support staff (which includes clerical, estates and managerial staff), compared to 8.2 days in 2011-12 and 8.8 days in 2009-10.

Today's report mainly considers sickness absence rates and total days lost by staff group, region and organisation. These findings are based on the full 365 day financial year, given the NHS is always operational, and includes non-working days if they fall within a reported absence period. The data shows that in 2012-13:

  • 4.24 per cent of NHS staff overall (excluding general practice) were ill on an average day), compared to 4.12 per cent in 2011-12 and 4.40 per cent in 2009-10.
  • 6.55 per cent of qualified ambulance staff were ill on an average day - the highest rate of any staff group - compared to 6.18 per cent in 2011-12 and 6.38 per cent in 2009-10.
  • 1.25 per cent of hospital doctors were ill on an average day - the lowest rate of any staff group -compared to 1.19 per cent in 2011-12 and 1.21 per cent in 2009-10.
  • Regionally6, the North East had the highest sickness absence rate, with 4.74 per cent of staff ill on an average day, compared to 4.55 per cent in 2011-12 and 4.98 per cent in 2009-10. The lowest rate was in London at 3.52 per cent, compared to 3.51 per cent in 2011-12 and 3.64 per cent in 2009-10.
  • Sickness absence was highest among the lowest-paid. Six per cent of staff within the second lowest pay band (Agenda for Change Band 2) were ill on an average day- the highest rate of any pay band. The lowest rate was in the highest pay band (Band 9), with 1.22 per cent ill on an average day.

HSCIC chair Kingsley Manning said: "Today's report offers a crucial insight into the level of sickness absence within the NHS and therefore provides a health check of the very professions which care for the sick within our society.

"As the NHS is one of the biggest employers in this country, this data is absolutely essential for health service employers locally and nationally, as well as the Government, to gain an insight into the many staff groups that keep the health service operational 365 days of the year."

image icon Comparison of sickness absence rates [18kb]

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 130 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. 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.
  3. Sickness absence rates are calculated using FTE calendar days and include non-working days, which is 365 days of the year (366 days for a leap year). This may result in a slight under count of Sickness Absence when compared to Sickness Absence calculated using FTE worked days only as non-working days such as weekends are included in both the numerator (if they are included in a period of reported sickness) and denominator. Typically not all non-working days lost to sickness will have been reported by an employee and therefore captured on ESR. However if the numerator is used to calculate an average number of working days lost per employee this will result in an over count of Sickness Absence for the NHS due to non-working days being included. To calculate an estimate of working days lost the sickness absence rate is therefore applied to the notional full time working pattern of 225 days a year. Further information is available in the methodology section of the publication bulletin.
  4. Staff numbers within the press release refer to Full Time Equivalent (FTE) numbers.
  5. Regional data refers to former Strategic Health Authority areas.
  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. For media enquiries or interview requests please contact the press office on 0845 257 6990 or
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