East London NHS staff lose thousands of days work due to mental health issues

The most recent data shows men are twice as likely to commit suicide as women. Picture: PA.

The most recent data shows men are twice as likely to commit suicide as women. Picture: PA. - Credit: PA

NHS staff across east London are taking thousands of sick days because of mental health issues, NHS figures show.

Newham University Hospital. Picture: Sandra Rowse

Newham University Hospital. Picture: Sandra Rowse - Credit: Archant

In the 12 months from December 2017, there were almost 25,000 absences at Barts Health and 16,000 at the East London Foundation Trust because of stress, anxiety, depression, or other psychiatric illnesses.

Barts Health provides hospitals to Newham and Tower Hamlets, with ELFT providing community and mental health care to the boroughs.

Those numbers represent a big portion of the total absences at the trusts: around one in 10 at Barts Health and one in five at ELFT.

Across the country, mental health sick days accounted for almost a quarter of all absences over the same period - nearly 4.2 million days in total.

Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Picture: Mike Brooke

Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Picture: Mike Brooke - Credit: Mike Brooke

Helga Pile, deputy head of health at the public sector union Unison, said staff were having to contend with intolerable work pressure, bullying, and intimidation and violence from patients.

"It's in all our interests to protect NHS workers," she said.

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"Chronic staff shortages mean NHS employees are routinely being asked to do more with fewer resources as they desperately try to keep the service afloat.

"The government urgently needs to invest in the NHS to cut staff shortages and reduce burnout, and workers suffering anxiety, depression and stress must get rapid access to mental health support services."

An ELFT spokesman said the trust knew how dedicated its staff are and that it was concerned by the numbers: "One of our strategic priorities is to improve the experience of staff.

"As a trust we know it is absolutely essential that our staff enjoy coming to work. We are paying particular attention to wellbeing, flexible working and improved benefits for staff."

He added that there are a number of programmes to improve the working environment, with a focus on listening to what staff want.

A spokeswoman for Barts Health said: "Our staff are our greatest asset and play an important role in delivering outstanding care across east London and beyond and we are committed to ensuring we take care of their physical and mental wellbeing.

"We have policies and programmes in place to support staff, including a mental wellbeing policy, 24/7 employee assistance programme and mental health first aiders across our hospitals."

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