Sickness absence is costing the NHS around £1.5bn a year, NHS Employers has claimed as new analysis reveals that hospital managers and doctors have some of the lowest rates.

Across the NHS, sickness absence has fallen by just 0.18 percentage points from a high of 4.24 per cent in 2009-10 to 4.06 per cent in 2013-14, data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre has revealed.

NHS Employers estimated this has saved the health service the equivalent of £7m, equivalent to 273 full time staff.

Among NHS staff groups, doctors had the least time off sick at 1.22 per cent, with senior managers recording an absence rate of 1.55 per cent.

Qualified nurses, midwives and health visiting staff had an overall absence of 4.5 per cent, while ambulance staff recorded the highest sickness rate of 6.2 per cent.

Overall the centre said NHS staff were taking one less day off sick than they were five years ago.

In recent years there has been a renewed focus on sickness following a 2009 review by Steve Boorman which called for better sickness policies in the NHS.

Staff sickness rates

Earlier this year a report by the Royal College of Physicians found that 115 of 178 NHS trusts examined supported staff with health and wellbeing plans, compared with 70 trusts in 2010.

Among individual acute trusts the top five worst for sickness were all foundation trusts with South Tyneside Foundation Trust recording the highest sickness at 5.26 per cent.

The trust with the lowest absence rate was West Middlesex University Hospital Trust at 2.52 per cent.

Sickness absence was notably higher in mental health providers, with the worst five trusts all higher than their acute counterparts with Greater Manchester West Mental Health Foundation Trust recording a rate of 6.63 per cent.

Across all NHS organisations, Coastal West Sussex CCG recorded the highest sickness absence rate at 7.09 per cent, but the region with the worst overall sickness was the North West at 4.60 per cent.

Sue Covill, director of employment services at NHS Employers, said: “We all recognise that healthy, well supported staff are happier in their roles and can give better care. It’s a huge credit to managers and the workforce that sickness absence is falling at a time when the NHS is working exceptionally hard to deliver great care.”

Ian Frame, executive director of personnel and development at South Tyneside, said it was “committed to promoting a culture of good staff attendance, whilst treating employees who suffer ill health with understanding and giving them the necessary support”.

“We have a range of mechanisms for listening to our staff and we always seek to learn from and act upon the results of the annual staff survey,” he said.

“Our health and wellbeing team are constantly looking at new ways of helping staff to stay healthy. Initiatives already adopted include offering wellbeing checks and workstation assessments to identify any problems, which can then be quickly addressed, and promoting healthy eating and exercise.”