STRESSED nurses were absent from work for almost 1,000 hours in the first three months of this year.
New figures from Sunderland Royal Hospital reveal exhausted staff nurses and specialist nurse practitioners (SNPs) were the groups most feeling the strain.
In January, SNPs were absent due to stress-related illness for more than 93 hours, an increase from 24 hours in January 2012.
Staff nurses were off for more than an extra 100 hours in January, compared to the same time the previous year.
Regional director for the Royal College of Nursing Glen Turp said it was “not surprising” that staff are feeling the strain due to their increasing workload, and the “ongoing push” to make £20 billion of cost cuts.
“The investigation into the stress levels experienced by NHS nurses is a timely reminder of the pressure on front-line staff,” he said. “There is inherent pressure in the nature of working in a clinical environment, but with the growing demand for services, coupled with the push to deliver cost efficiencies, it’s not surprising staff are feeling the strain.”
Other nursing groups suffering include midwives, as absences almost doubled from 24 hours in April 2011 to more than 44 in April 2012.
“Nursing is both a physically and mentally demanding profession, which can contribute to stress,” said Mr Turp. “Management have a duty to provide a supportive working environment.
“It is essential that effective occupational health services for NHS staff are provided.”
The annual NHS staff survey showed that nationally, 38 per cent of NHS staff during the last 12 months reported they have felt unwell as a result of work stress. In comparison, 35 per cent of City Hospitals Sunderland’s staff suffered. Mr Turp said: “City Hospitals Sunderland has itself introduced some innovative approaches in this regard.
“So, while the figures are high, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s figures are better than the national average.”
A spokesman for Sunderland Hospitals said the trust was doing everything possible to care for staff: “We do our best to support all staff in their work with a range of schemes and benefits, which help them to deal with the demands of the job.
“These include a well developed health and wellbeing strategy, a fully equipped health and fitness centre, a stop smoking service and dietary advice, and childcare co-ordinator.
“A fast track self referral occupational health physiotherapy service for staff was established over 12 years ago. We do our very best to help all staff.”