‘Concern’ over JR staff mental health absences amid coronavirus

MENTAL health problems for staff at the John Radcliffe Hospital’s trust is the most common reason for being off work.

More than one in 10 (13.3 per cent) of total staff days lost were down to mental health in July, according to the latest figures from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH).

Overall, absences had returned to be broadly in line with pre-Covid at 3.7 per cent in July as measured on a year to date basis, and was also slight reduction from June.

NHS Digital data shows that in April the overall staff sickness and absence rate at the hospital trust, which runs the John Radcliffe, Churchill, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and Banbury’s Horton General, was six per cent – the highest level since comparable records began in 2013.

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As well as mental health, in July coronavirus or suspected coronavirus was behind 8.4 per cent of absences, musculoskeletal conditions seven per cent, gastrointestinal problems 6.9 per cent, and flu-like symptoms 6.4 per cent.

Together these absence reasons made up 42 per cent of all absences.

A statement from the trust said: “While our staff absence rates are broadly in line with the normal pre-Covid seasonal levels, absences as a result of mental health issues are a concern.

“We are acutely aware that the past few months have been extremely challenging for our staff as they tackle the Covid-19 situation.

“This is, of course, especially true for our frontline staff, but we are also aware of the increased anxiety for other staff, including those working from home or with caring responsibilities.”

It added: “We have put in place a range of psychological support measures to give staff and teams the help they need.

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“Psychological support is offered to individuals through our employee assistance programme and occupational health; to teams, who are supported by a health and wellbeing lead, linked to the psychological medicine team; and support for leaders.

“We have also appointed a 12-month BAME wellbeing lead, with the kind support of our Oxford Hospitals Charities.”

The statement concluded: “Our staff care deeply about their role caring for patients, and we have a duty as an employer to help them by providing the ongoing mental health support if they require it.

“Ultimately they and we want to continue delivering the best possible care for our patients.”

In an effort to help staff with some of the added pressure from coronavirus the trust also had pods installed at the John Radcliffe so A&E staff can take a power nap at work.

They were initially on loan to the trust for a trial and used throughout the peak of pandemic but proved such a hit with staff Oxford Hospitals Charity agreed to buy them for permanent use.

The British Medical Association warned in May the virus was likely to leave many NHS staff with PTSD.