Record numbers of nurses taking sick leave due to stress

The number of NHS nurses having to take time off work because of the stress of their jobs is on the increase.

Between 2010 and 2015, nearly every trust in our region saw an increase in stress-related sick leave.

In North Bristol, the number of employees taking time off because of stress rose from 4.5% to nearly 7% in that time. The Royal College of Nursing blames shortage of staff in the NHS as a whole.

Many hospital trusts are trying to tackle the problem by providing activities and support services for staff, as nursing shortages and an increasing workload are taking their toll.

Sandra Hummerstone's been a nurse for more than thirty years - she now works as a lung cancer specialist.

Although I'm part of quite a large team, the numbers of lung cancer patients are sadly larger. So trying to make sure we give the right support to everyone at the right time is almost impossible. There's more things that need to be done than there is time to do them, so I usually go home feeling like I haven't actually achieved what I need and want to achieve on a day-to-day basis. I usually feel like I've let someone somewhere down.

Sandra Hummerstone

To deal with pressures like these, Sandra joined a running club organised by her NHS trust.

She's completed the couch to 5k programme, and now helps others to do the same.

There is a lot of evidence that our staff can find work very difficult. We do know that stress is one of the leading causes of staff being off sick both in the NHS and in other organisations as well, so I don't think we're alone in that. But I think that in terms of what we can do… if you can look after your health and wellbeing then it does build your resilience, it does give you more coping mechanisms to enable you to cope with the day to day stresses of life.

steph knowles, Health & Wellbeing Lead

Many hospital trusts have their own health and wellbeing service to help staff cope with the pressures of the job. But the Royal College of Nursing says the level of stress among nurses is an ongoing problem that could prove more difficult to fix.

Dr Sheila Marriott, Royal College of Nursing

In a statement the Department of Health told us that staffing was a priority. A spokesperson said that there are more than 10,000 additional nurses in hospitals since 2010, and that the number of training places has been increased by 15% over the last four years.

But some hospital trusts say there is still a problem, and are recruiting nurses from abroad to to try and address it.

Having a full team in place and having all the staff you require on every shift is bound to help and having consistently the same people in the team, of course that will help. It's bound to make people feel better if they have the right staffing levels. Technically nursing's become more challenging. So we do more interventions than we used to do so there's a lot more responsibility for people. There's a lot more paperwork than there used to be. All for good reason. But that all means that the day is probably busier than it ever was before.

Julie Smith, Chief Nurse