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  1. ITV Report

Exclusive: NHS staff in Yorkshire taking tens of thousands of days off sick with stress every month

Tens of thousands of working days are being lost every month because staff working in Yorkshire's NHS trusts are struggling with stress or anxiety, an ITV investigation can reveal.

More than 37,000 working days were lost at NHS trusts in the region during May 2017 alone - that is almost a third up from the same period four years earlier.

One doctor, who was signed off for two weeks from a South Yorkshire A&E department, has told ITV he believes workforce stress is an "endemic" problem within the region's health service.

The doctor, who wanted to remain anonymous, says his concerns about the level of care patients were receiving led him to suffer from anxiety in winter 2016.

He says two of the 15 junior doctors on every A&E shift would often be signed off sick, leaving rota gaps and increasing workforce stress.

Others have spoken off camera of how their mental health difficulties have led them to take extended leave or even change careers.

It got to the point where I was getting two hours sleep a night and the time just before I was sent home from work I had had two hours sleep in 72 hours.

At least two doctors per rotation were going off with stress - this is such an endemic issue it's happening all of the time that the senior staff were used to dealing with it.

– Junior doctor in South Yorkshire, speaking on the condition of anonymity

The situation, highlighted by figures released by NHS Digital, has led hospital trusts to innovate in the way they support staff.

Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust is one of four trusts in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire that runs Schwartz Center Rounds.

The initiative, which was pioneered in America, encourages healthcare staff to talk about and work through their emotions as part of structured group sessions.

Some people do continue to suffer in silence but it's becoming more acceptable to talk about your feelings and talk about the emotions and to recognise that actually in a very stressful environment it's normal to have emotional distress sometimes and emotional upset for the things we have to do.

– Dr Helen Law, clinical lead for Schwartz Centre Rounds at Harrogate District Hospital

There are all sorts of ways in which NHS trusts can and will be helping to alleviate workforce stress Schwartz Centre Rounds are just one of many ways.

The truth is they're all necessary, no one solution will provide the answer for everyone, Schwartz Centre Rounds wont work by themselves in a vacuum, it needs support from everyone else around the individual staff - from the highest levels of management - it needs to be ingrained within the culture as well.

– Professor Jeremy Dawson, from the Institute of Work Psychology at the University of Sheffield

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have been involved in the first study into the effectiveness of Schwartz Center Rounds in the UK.

The research, which also involved King's College London and the University of Surrey, found that the sessions helped both clinical and non-clinical staff. Stress levels more than halved for workers who attended eight months of regular sessions. For more on the research click here.

The Department of Health was contacted for a comment.