Anxiety/stress/depression/other psychiatric illnesses were the most reported reasons for sickness, accounting for over 502,570 full time equivalent days lost and 26.4% of all sickness absence in May 2023. This has increased since April 2023 (25.5%).
The overall sickness absence rate for England was 4.5%, which remains unchanged since April 2023 (4.5%) and is lower than May 2022 (4.9%). The North West region reported the highest sickness absence rate in May 2023 at 5.2%, dropping slightly since April 2023 (5.4%). The London region reported the lowest sickness absence rate in May 2023 at 3.9%, rising slightly since April 2023 (3.8%).
Ambulance Trusts had the highest sickness absence rate at 6.3% in May 2023, falling slightly since April 2023 (6.5%). Integrated Care Boards had the lowest sickness absence rate at 2.6%, remaining unchanged since April 2023 (2.6%).
Responding to the latest data on sickness absence in the NHS, the director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, Miriam Deakin, said: "It is deeply concerning that anxiety, stress and depression led to more than half a million days lost in May 2023 – more than a quarter of all sickness absences among NHS staff.
"Frontline staff are working incredibly hard against a backdrop of rising operational pressures, over 125,000 vacancies and ongoing strike action. Today's data shows in stark detail the psychological strain staff right across acute, mental health, community and ambulance services are under.
"NHS Trust leaders are continuing to do everything they can to help protect the health and wellbeing of their staff and to cover sickness absences. But their ability to support their staff is being hindered by a range of factors, including long standing pressures and high workloads due to demand outstripping capacity, which affect staff wellbeing. The loss of funding for staff wellbeing hubs has left many NHS staff across the country without much-needed access to crucial mental health services. The lack of progress on resolving strike action also continues to be a huge worry for trust leaders, amid reports that this is leaving staff increasingly demoralised.
"The new NHS Long Term Workforce Plan aims to increase the workforce over the next 15 years, but we still need the details on how these ambitions will be realised with appropriate funding. A focus on staff retention is crucial."