The Institute of Healthcare Management Calls for Openness and Honesty about NHS Capacity as Sickness Absence Soars

The Institute of Healthcare ManagementThe Institute of Healthcare Management has called for honest and open communication about NHS capacity after a snapshot survey revealed the scale of sickness absence across the service.

The UK's leading, independent, membership organisation for health and social care managers also said local leaders and communications teams should be allowed to level with the public about their situation, as almost two thirds of poll respondents reported 'worse' or 'much worse' absence levels than they would expect at this time of year.

One in ten respondents reported sickness levels of 12-15% and one in five reported absences of more than 15%. Despite this, a majority said they were 'managing well' or finding things 'tough, but we are coping.'

IHM, chief executive, Jon Wilks said this was a tribute to the planning that had gone into preparing the NHS to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic this winter, and a demonstration of the resourcefulness that health and care services have shown as the second wave has accelerated.

However, he said politicians and policy makers needed to be transparent about the situation, so the public could form realistic expectations about the NHS' ability to open up new services and follow guidance intended to halt the spread of the disease.

"At the moment, politicians and policy makers are talking about opening additional services, such as Nightingale Hospitals and Nightingale vaccination centres," Wilks said. "Although the picture varies across the country, our members are saying that the scale of sickness absence in the NHS right now makes that fanciful.

"Current services are managing, under enormous pressure, but without staff the idea of opening additional beds and services is a non-starter.

"We need openness and honesty about the position so workers and staff, patients and families have realistic expectations about the treatment available for COVID-19 and other conditions, and don't lose faith in the service because the reality fails to match the headlines they are seeing."

Wilks also urged politicians and national organisations to allow commissioners and trusts to communicate with local media, instead of relying on central messages. "If local managers could represent their position to local communities, we would have a much better understanding of what is happening across the service," he said.

"That would almost certainly win a lot more support for the NHS and for the Covid-security measures that everybody needs to follow to halt the spread of this terrible pandemic."

The online, snapshot survey was completed by 82 IHM members. It found 32% felt sickness absence was ‘same as we would expect at this time of year' but 37% thought it was 'worse' and 25% thought it was 'much worse'.

Asked to estimate how many staff were off sick, 30% said 'up to 5%', and 26% said 5-7%, 8-10%, or 10-12%. However, 12% said absence was running at 12-15% and 20% said it was 'more than 15%'.

Wilks pointed out that these figures exacerbated long-term shortages of staff. The NHS went into the COVID-19 crisis with 100,000 vacancies unfilled and short of more than 40,000 nurses.

Asked 'to what extent staff absence is currently affecting your organisation's ability to deliver services', more than 22% of respondents said they were 'managing well' and 39% said it was 'tough, but we are managing ok.'

However, 29% said 'services are being affected, although we are not in crisis' and 10% said 'services are being seriously affected and we are in crisis.'

The survey was launched over New Year, so the majority of responses were submitted before this week's big increase in cases, and the release of figures showing that the number of people who have died within 28 days of a positive Covid-test has passed 1,000 per day for the first time since April 2020.

The full survey findings can be accessed here: IHM Staff Absence Survey - Responses

About the Institute of Healthcare Management

The IHM is a leading independent membership organisation for managers and leaders commissioning, delivering and supporting health and care in the UK and across the world, supporting personal and professional development and driving change to improve health and well-being for all through quality management. It supports managers by helping them to understand, develop, share and celebrate good practice.

Most Popular Now

CSAM Acquires Optima - Further Boosts eH…

CSAM Health Group AS ("CSAM"), the leading provider of niche eHealth solutions in the Nordics, today announced it has signed a deal to acquire eHealth player Optima Corporation Ltd from...

Using Artificial Intelligence to Overcom…

Depression is a worldwide problem, with serious consequences for individual health and the economy, and rapid and effective screening tools are thus urgently needed to counteract its increasing prevalence. Now...

EU Digital COVID Certificate Enters into…

The EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation enters into application. This means that EU citizens and residents will now be able to have their Digital COVID Certificates issued and verified across...

Deep Machine Learning Completes Informat…

The Structural Bioinformatics and Network Biology laboratory, led by ICREA Researcher Dr. Patrick Aloy, has completed the bioactivity information for a million molecules using deep machine-learning computational models. It has...

Scottish Health and Care Professionals G…

Scottish health and care professionals across a wide range of clinical settings including NHS Scotland health boards are being given access to an individual's COVID-19 vaccine status through the Orion...

Philips and the Spanish National Center …

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, has participated in an important research project to develop a magnetic resonance (MR) imaging technique [1,2] that could...

Ethics and Governance of Artificial Inte…

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the ability of algorithms encoded in technology to learn from data so that they can perform automated tasks without every step in the process having...

It's Going to be Quite a Handover…

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has been abruptly replaced by Sajid Javid. The Highland Marketing advisory board consider the huge agenda he is now facing, and what it...

Philips Accelerates Stroke Diagnosis and…

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, announced a strategic partnership agreement with NICO.LAB, a MedTech stroke care company. Together with the recently expanded stroke...

Open Call HORIZON-HLTH-2021-TOOL-06-01: …

This topic aims at supporting activities that are enabling or contributing to one or several expected impacts of destination 5 "Unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies and digital...

Exscientia Accelerates COVID-19 Drug Dis…

Exscientia has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gates Philanthropy Partners, as part of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. This is to expedite the optimisation of...

Smartphone Photos can be Used to Detect …

A picture of a person's inner eyelid taken with a standard smartphone camera can be used to screen for anemia, according to a new study published this week in the...