NHS workers take average 11 days off sick every year
NHS staff in Scotland have collectively taken almost five million days off work sick in the past three years, newly-released figures have revealed.
The statistics suggest that each worker took an average of 11 days off due to illness each year.
This is almost double the 6.4 days taken off sick by the average worker in the UK according to a survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) last year.
Patients' campaigners and politicians called for more action to reduce absences, which cost the NHS millions of pounds.
The figures, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, revealed that in 13 out of Scotland's 14 health boards a total of 4,843,874 sick days were taken by staff in 2008-10. NHS Lothian failed to provide figures.
The most common reasons cited by health boards for sickness absence were anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health issues. Other illnesses included colds and flu, back problems, toothache and migraines.
There were also reports of staff requiring time off to deal with problems such as alcoholism and drug dependence.
Levels of sickness absence in the NHS in Scotland have fallen in recent years. Figures from Information Services Division Scotland found that rates for 2009-10 stood at 4.75 per cent, down 0.2 per cent on the previous year.
But campaign groups and politicians said more needed to be done to reduce sickness levels further and the costs involved.
Health boards spend millions of pounds on agency staff to cover absences, including up to 36 million on locum doctors and 8m for nurses.
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, said she was "absolutely gobsmacked" by the figures.
"Almost five million sick days is a huge number," she said."We really need to get on top of this.
"Our staff should not be off with stress and depression. We need to get more staff in so staff are not under as much pressure which means they have to take time off sick."
Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie, agreed that a reduction in the number of staff in the NHS in the last year meant significant pressure was piled on those left behind.She said: "A Labour Scottish government would prioritise the protection of NHS jobs, with no compulsory redundancies for NHS staff, to ensure the delivery of the highest standards of patient care."
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Murdo Fraser said: "Absenteeism costs us hundreds of millions of pounds a year and people rightly question why the number of days taken off is considerably higher in the public sector than in the private sector."
An SNP spokesman said: "The SNP has succeeded in bringing down NHS sickness rates, as well as making sure there are more medical staff to treat patients by increasing the number of consultants, doctors, nurses, dentists, emergency workers and cleaners in the health service since 2007."
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