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Drugs and alcohol contributed to over month of sick leave for local hospital staff last year

Drugs and alcohol contributed to over month of sick leave for local hospital staff last year

Published by the Eagle Radio News Team at 5:08pm 14th August 2019. (Updated at 4:11pm 15th August 2019)

Drug and alcohol abuse contributed to over 5 weeks sick leave by NHS staff in Surrey and Hampshire last year. 

Between December 2017 and November 2018, employees at Surrey and Borders Partnership Trust took four weeks' worth of sick leave because of it, whilst those at the Frimley Health Trust took 15 days.

The NHS Digital Data showed that. in England, almost 7,000 full-time days were lost over the same period – the equivalent of 19 years.

But the figures don't distinguish between sick leave taken by medical staff responsible for patient care, or by administrative and managerial staff.

Charity Alcohol Change UK said that heavy drinking or drug use could damage the mental health of NHS staff and impact on their decision-making.

Mark Leyshon, senior research and policy manager at Alcohol Change UK, said:

"People drink heavily for a variety of reasons, but drinking to try to cope with the pressures and stresses of everyday life, including work, is commonly cited.

"Drinking to manage stress may be common, but that doesn't mean it works – it may even increase anxiety longer term.

"It also impacts on work performance, resulting in absenteeism, impaired decision-making and damaged relations with co-workers – and in the vital roles done by NHS employees these performance problems have a particularly concerning potential impact."

At least 107 NHS trusts and three Clinical Commissioning Groups recorded staff absences because of substance abuse.

However, similar figures released in recent years show the majority of substance abuse sick days were taken by clinical staff, including doctors, nurses, midwives, and their support staff, and therapeutic or technical staff such as radiographers, cardiologists and physiotherapists.

Lorna Payne, Chief Operating Officer and Lead for Staff Wellbeing at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: 

“Nationally, the government estimates that around 17 million working days are lost each year to sickness absence related to alcohol use alone.

“As Surrey’s provider of NHS drug and alcohol services, in partnership with Catalyst, we welcome the focus on this important issue.

“The number of sick days taken due to alcohol or drug use in our Trust is very low, relating to less than one in every 1,000 of the sick days taken by employees in that year. 

“We take a compassionate approach where we recognise that NHS staff experience the same health problems as the rest of the population and encourage our employees to overcome to stigma of speaking up and seeking relevant support.

“We do however also take patient safety incredibly seriously and there are strict protocols for staff who work while under the influence which can result in disciplinary action being taken.

“Most importantly, our response to our staff and people in Surrey who are struggling with problem drug or alcohol, is to ask that you seek help from your GP or any of the Surrey or national support services available.”

Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust have been contacted for comment.

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