By Liz Stephens
Sickness rates among NHS staff are 50 per cent higher than the private sector average, a highly critical government review has revealed.
The first national audit of working patterns within the health service found NHS workers also had higher than average levels of obesity, smoking and poor mental health.
More than a third of staff were found to have moderate to very poor mental health and 75 per cent of those surveyed said the state of their health was detrimental to patient care.
The audit found the average annual sick leave taken by an NHS employee is 10.7 days, well above both public and private sector averages.
If the NHS turned its attention to its staff's own wellbeing, providing more access to services such as physiotherapy and counselling, 15,000 staff absences a day could be saved, the audit said.
Dr Steve Boorman, who led the review, said there was now a clear business case for the NHS to do more.
"Trusts that take health and wellbeing seriously perform constantly better on measures of quality, patient safety and efficiency," he said.
Speaking in an interview with the Times this morning, Dr Boorman said: "It is ironic that the NHS is trying to focus on the public health agenda yet not making it available to its own staff".
A national workforce review published last year showed that ill-health was costing the British economy £1 billion a year.
The news comes as the NHS faces an 11 per cent rise in the number of negligence claims.