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April 2020
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New research has revealed that frontline NHS hospitals are losing an estimated £200 million1 a year due to staff being absent from work with muscle and joint injuries.

More than 60% of staff working in Acute Hospital Trusts take sick leave every year, averaging just over 20 days absence each. But that figure rises to almost 23.5 days per head for those suffering from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) meaning that hospitals across the country lose an average of almost 14,000 staff days per year due to staff having conditions such as bad backs, sore necks or stiff joints.

But according to Physio Med, which carried out the research, faster access to physiotherapy could help to significantly reduce sickness absence, saving the NHS more than £100 million a year.

Phil Clayton, Managing Director of Physio Med, which provides occupational physiotherapy and ergonomic solutions to large organisations and a number of NHS Trusts, said: “Staff within the NHS provide vital services to the public. Many of the roles are physically demanding and therefore the prevalence of muscular and joint injuries can, understandably, be high. But when these employees are absent from work it can have a severe knock-on effect on the delivery of NHS services to the public. 

“The research2 we have carried out among Trusts across the country demonstrates that absence due to MSDs is higher than average and is costing the NHS £200 million a year – a figure that doesn’t even take into account the cost of cancelled and delayed NHS services.”

Physio Med’s research found that over a three year period:

  • An average of 60% of NHS staff took sickness absence, with the average absence being 20 days
  • Around 16.5% of all absence was due to MSDs, with the average length of absence rising to almost 24 days
  • This equates to an average of 13,842 lost days per trust, per year or 6,000 employees absent every day across all NHS acute trusts

The research reinforces the findings of the Chartered Society for Physiotherapy (CSP) Fit Enough for Patients? report3 in 2013, which identified that more than a third of trusts did not have a health and wellbeing strategy in place, and nearly one in five trusts did not offer staff rapid access to physiotherapy, despite being recommended to do so by the 2009 report, the Boorman Review4.

Phil Clayton: “We work with a number of NHS Trusts across the country, providing fast access to physiotherapy services which allows staff to be assessed by a physiotherapist within days, sometimes even hours, which has delivered significant reductions in sickness absence and improved productivity. One Trust has recorded 58% reduction in days lost in the employees that were referred to our service.”

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