Pressures within the NHS are continuing to take their toll on worn-out staff “reaching breaking point”, with absence rates soaring in Grampian.
The number of coughs, colds and flu cases reported in the last two years have nearly doubled, according to new figures.
Absence numbers for stomach problems, respiratory illnesses and back problems have all shot up.
Time off work for anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health issues have also increased.
The most common illnesses affecting stressed-out staff
In 2020, a total of 16,051 absences were recorded across NHS Grampian, covering all staff including frontline workers, support services, admin and senior managers.
Last year, it rocketed by more than 40% to 22,668 instances.
The most prevalent cause was cold, coughs and flu – at 3,680 – followed by gastro-intestinal problems at 3,469.
Headaches or migraines, back problems and psychiatric illnesses were also more common than in previous years.
In total, 11,875 staff needed at least one sick day last year – up from 9,465 in 2020.
The health board currently employs around 17,000 people.
The figures, obtained via freedom of information legislation, show an increase in the number of NHS Grampian requesting time off work for poor mental health.
In 2020, a total of 1,367 people logged at least one absence for anxiety, stress, depression or other psychiatric illnesses.
Last year this had increased to 1,441 – approximately 10% of the entire workforce.
North-east MSP and Scottish Conservative shadow public health minister Tess White said it’s “no exaggeration to say NHS Grampian is facing its worst crisis in decades.”
Absences rising ‘at an alarming rate’
She wants the Scottish Government to give the health board more funding and support to recruit more staff.
“Exhausted staff such as nurses and midwives are being stretched so much that their mental health has now reached breaking point,” she said.
“Cold, cough and flu absences have almost doubled at an alarming rate and continue to be exacerbated by admissions and staff sickness due to Covid.
“Over-worked nurses and midwives rightly feel taken for granted because of the intolerable conditions this SNP Government are forcing them to work under.”
And she added: “The system is hanging together by a thread – and so is the health of our dedicated staff who go beyond the call of duty on a daily basis.”
A spokesman for NHS Grampian said, between October 2021 and September 2022, the sickness rate for its more-than-17,000 staff was 4.81%.
“This was well below the NHS Scotland average of approximately 5.3%,” he said.
“We also have the lowest long-term sickness absence rate among the mainland territorial health boards for the above period, at 2.72%.
“We would once again take this opportunity to thank our staff for their incredible ongoing efforts.”
We made repeated attempts over several days to contact the Scottish Government for comment in response to Ms White’s claims.