Figures reveal one-third of NHS Lothian staff absences during first Covid wave down to stress and mental health

One-third of NHS Lothian staff absences during the first wave of Covid-19 were caused by stress and poor mental health, Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack has claimed.

In NHS Lothian, 91,053 staff hours were lost to stress or mental health over three months
In NHS Lothian, 91,053 staff hours were lost to stress or mental health over three months

And she accused the Scottish Government of failing to support its workforce and under-staffing the health service.

Freedom of Information requests by Scottish Labour revealed 91,053 staff hours in NHS Lothian were lost to stress or mental health absences in April, May and June this year, accounting for 33.7 per cent staff sickness absence in these three months.

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Ms Boyack said: "At the peak of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, our NHS was dealing not only with a surge in hospital admissions and staff self-isolating, but also the legacy of the SNP's failure to support its workforce.

"The Scottish government has cut funding to the NHS, and at a time of increasing need for services, too many hospitals, GP practices and support services are understaffed.

It's time for the SNP government to give NHS Lothian and its staff the support they need."

NHS Lothian human resources director Janis Butler said staff had worked tirelessly and made personal sacrifices to protect patient care. She said: “Our staff are incredible and we are extremely proud of them. They have risen to each and every unprecedented challenge they faced, especially during the first months of this pandemic when the situation was still evolving.

“We must remember that they are all human, however, and they have faced stressful and uncertain times. During those first months, we introduced a number of support schemes, staff counselling and listening services as well as stress control and wellness action plans. We encourage our staff to continue to access these schemes as we move through the course of the pandemic to ensure they get the support they need.”

A Scottish government spokesman said it had developed a national wellbeing hub to provide practical advice to enable staff to enhance their personal resilience and look after themselves and their colleagues.”In addition we have set up a confidential national helpline for health and social care staff operated by NHS 24. Further work is ongoing with Boards and other stakeholders such as the professional bodies to develop specialist services for those staff who need timeous access to more specialist psychological therapies and treatment.”

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