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Sick leave in NHS trusts cost taxpayer £108m in a year

Sick leave among health service staff in Northern Ireland is increasing and the cost the taxpayer £108 million last year
Seanín Graham

SICK leave among staff working across Northern Ireland's six health trusts has cost the taxpayer £108 million in a single year.

The Belfast trust, which employs more than 20,000 staff, has now launched a new App and website to "improve physical and mental wellbeing" after it paid out £35.7m to cover its absence bill for 2014/15.

"It has been well researched that where staff are healthier and happier, there is a positive impact on the patient experience," a spokeswoman for the Belfast body said.

She added the rates had risen from 5.53 per cent in 2012/13 to 6.45 per cent last year.

The latest figures were obtained through a written Assembly question by DUP North Down Assembly member Alex Easton.

The Northern Health trust, which is responsible for Antrim Area hospital and the Causeway in Coleraine, had the second highest sick leave bill, at £22.8m, followed by the Western trust (£17.3m), the South Eastern (£15.6m) and the Southern Trust (£12.4m).

The Ambulance Service was the lowest at almost £4m but employs less staff than its five counterparts.

Between 2010 and 2011, sickness cost the health trusts an estimated £73m, according to an audit office probe.

At the time, the Department of Health suggested that the spread of infection and the demands of shift working were contributing factors.

With the public sector representing almost 30 per cent of the north's total labour work force, its health and well being is crucial to the effective delivery of public services, the auditor general said in the 2013 report.

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