THOUSANDS of NHS staff are having to take days off sick as a result of stress, Labour will tell Health Secretary Alex Neil today.
Party health spokesman Neil Findlay is to raise the issue of the number of health workers “taking time off sick because they cannot cope with the weight of their workload” in a Holyrood debate.
In the NHS Tayside area 24.5% of all sick days in 2012-13 were a result of stress-related conditions, Labour said.
The party added that last year more than 16% of sickness days in NHS Fife were for stress-related conditions, as well as 14.3% of sickness days in the NHS Lanarkshire region.
For these three health boards alone, there were 49,659 sickness days resulting from stress-related conditions last year, Labour claimed.
Mr Findlay said: “The pressure on staff working in the NHS continues to increase as the Cabinet Secretary for Health refuses to admit there is a problem.
“In health boards across Scotland there are thousands of health workers taking time off sick because they cannot cope with the weight of their workload. In problem-hit NHS Lanarkshire, 15% of all sickness in the health service is stress-related while in Tayside that figure is almost a quarter.”
‘Root and branch’ review call
Speaking ahead of today’s Holyrood debate, he added: “This simply cannot be allowed to continue, the NHS needs support from Alex Neil to be able to cope with the pressures of an ageing population amidst standstill or cut budgets. This is not talking down the NHS staff, this is speaking up for NHS staff and patients.”
He called for a “root and branch review” to be carried out in the NHS to “find the pressure points and put in measures to help NHS staff deliver what’s required for excellent patient care”.
Mr Findlay said: “The concerns about a crisis in the health service are not just from the Labour benches. Audit Scotland has said the NHS is focused on short-term measures and has no long-term financial plan, the British Medical Association say that the strain staff are under is unsustainable and the Royal College of Nursing believe the NHS is ‘creaking at the seams’.
“So Alex Neil has a choice, he can either listen to the grave concerns raised by experts and acts now by instructing a wide ranging review of the health and social care system or he can sit back and watch as the health service crumbles.”
‘More staff’ claim
Mr Neil responded, saying that the Scottish Government was committed to monitoring the reduction of sickness absence levels.
He said: “That is why we have asked for all boards to have plans in place to ensure staffing levels provide safe and effective patient care, and this has led to Scotland’s downward trend on sickness absence rates under this government.”
The Health Secretary said the NHS was one of Scotland’s “greatest success stories”.
“I know we are all immensely proud of the care it delivers, day in, day out, to people right across Scotland,” he said.
“At a time when the NHS is seeing more patients than ever before, waiting times continue to be among their lowest ever levels, care is safer than it has ever been, levels of premature mortality have been further reduced and patients continue to rate their care very positively.”
Mr Neil said the protection of Scotland’s health budget has seen staffing levels increase under the current government, including an 11% rise in paramedics, 5.7% rise in GPs, 32.6% rise in dentists, 28% increase in medical consultants, and more than 1,000 additional qualified nurses and midwives.