The coronavirus pandemic sparked the highest rates of sickness absence rate among NHS staff in England in more than a decade.
Figures released by NHS Digital reveal that the monthly sickness rate hit 6.2% in April 2020 – up from 5.4% the month before.
That is the highest level recorded in data that goes back to April 2009.
About 2.3 million full-time equivalent days of work were lost out of a total of nearly 36.6 million in April 2020. This compares with 1.4 million full-time equivalent days lost out of nearly 35 million in the same month last year.
The worst-hit region was London, where the sickness rate increased to 7.2%. This compares with a rate of 4% measured in January, when London had the lowest sickness rate of any English region.
Ambulance trusts recorded the highest rates of sickness absence, at 7.3%. Even before the pandemic, experts said nine in 10 ambulance staff had experienced stress or poor mental health.
The next worst-hit group were those working for acute trusts, which provide services such as A&E departments, with a sickness absence rate of 6.5%.
Miriam Deakin, Director of Policy and Strategy at NHS Providers, said: “The percentage of NHS staff who were absent from work in April was 6.2% nationally.
“However, there was some variation by region and between trusts. This correlates with those areas facing the biggest peaks of the pandemic, such as in London.
“These figures demonstrate just how committed staff have been to taking care of people as well as trusts’ commitment to creating safe environments for their staff and patients in difficult circumstances.”