• South Tyneside FT has highest staff sickness absence rate of any acute trust for fourth consecutive year
  • Southport and Ormskirk has second highest for second year in a row
  • North West region has highest rate nationally

A hospital trust has topped the staff sickness absence rate table for the fourth year in a row, HSJ analysis reveals.

South Tyneside Foundation Trust had an average rate of 5.6 per cent of days lost to sickness absence for the first three quarters of 2016-17, the most recent available data, released yesterday, shows.

The £210m-turnover trust last year began sharing a management board and chief executive, Ken Bremner, with City Hospitals Sunderland Foundation Trust.

When HSJ approached the trust last year it did not explain what had caused its high absence rate, but in a statement personnel director Ian Frame said: “We are committed to promoting a culture of good staff attendance whilst treating staff who suffer ill health with understanding and giving them the necessary support that they require to get back to work. We have recently embarked on an innovative project aimed at accurately indicating the causes of ill health and taking actions to avoid absence in the first place. This project has been tested in other public sector organisations with very positive outcomes.”

The trust’s rate of 5.6 per cent for 2016-17 was down 0.1 percentage points from the same period in 2015-16.

In a statement on the latest figures, Kath Griffin, South Tyneside’s director of human resources and organisational development said: “We did see a small improvement in our sickness absence figures in 2016/17 and we fully appreciate the need to ensure that this continues in the future. As part of this commitment, we have introduced a new attendance management policy, with associated training for managers, and we anticipate that this will have an even greater impact on our attendance rates in 2017-18.”

Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Trust had the second highest sickness absence rate for the second year in a row. A spokesman for the trust said he could not comment because of the purdah rules covering official announcements in the run-up to an election.

The 10 acute trusts with highest percentage of days lost to sickness absence

Trust2013-142014-15Q1-Q3 2015-16 averageQ1-Q3 2016-17 average

South Tyneside FT

5.12

5.59

5.70

5.56

Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals Trust

3.97

4.48

5.42

5.42

Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust

4.83

5.22

4.92

5.41

Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care FT

4.35

4.87

4.91

5.21

Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust

4.35

4.71

4.79

5.13

Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn FT

4.66

4.82

4.56

5.09

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals FT

4.84

5.49

5.05

5.00

North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust

4.82

4.88

4.57

4.98

Central Manchester University Hospitals FT

4.52

5.06

4.60

4.89

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay FT

4.39

5.12

4.71

4.88

Ambulance trusts and mental health trusts generally performed worse than acute trusts.

The best performing acute trusts in 2016-17 were Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children Foundation Trust, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Trust and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital FT, which all had a rate of less than 2.5 per cent.

NHS Improvement provides “tailored support” to trusts on workforce issues, as part of the Single Oversight Framework - although a spokeswoman did not clarify what support Southport or South Tyneside had received.

Overall, the average sickness absence rate across the NHS, including clinical commissioning groups, for quarter three of 2016-17 was 4.4 per cent.

NHS Digital, which collates the information, said the North West Health Education England region had the highest average rate at 5.16 per cent, while north west London had the lowest with 3.5 per cent. Healthcare assistants and other support staff had the highest average sickness rate, and nurses and midwives the lowest.