Sickness among nurses and midwives can cost individual trusts as much as pounds1.8m a year, according to research.

A sickness monitoring project carried out between April and September last year by Pay and Workforce Research showed sickness absence for nurses and midwives averaged 7,709 hours per trust per month, which represented an average absence rate of 5.6 per cent over a year.

Based on average hourly rates for a grade E nurse, PWR says this represents a cost in lost time of pounds718,787 a year, rising to pounds1.76m when the cost of agency cover is included.

However, the organisation says paying overtime at 'time and a half' is even more expensive, at pounds1.8m a year.

'From a financial view point it would appear more cost-effective to employ agency staff to cover absence, rather than to pay overtime to full-time staff,' said PWR consultant Cheryl Kershaw.

'However, a more effective solution would be to work towards reducing absence rates by looking at the causes for sickness absence.'

See News Focus, page 10.