Stressed Health Trust staff under added pressure

THE under-fire NHS trust which runs the DGH lost more than 7,500 working days due to stress and anxiety among staff in just six months.

Figures obtained by the Herald this week under the Freedom of Information Act revealed East Sussex Healthcare Trust suffered from 7,518 lost days between April and October last year. That equates roughly to one day off due to stress for every single one of the trust’s 7,500 strong workforce and comes to light as NHS bosses struggle to wrestle hospital finances under control.

The trust, which was last week shown to have splashed out £4million on outside consultants, is desperately trying to earmark mammoth savings of £30million by the end of the financial year, or risk losing out on the much-coveted foundation trust status.

This increasingly likely scenario would see East Sussex Healthcare scrapped and control of services instead farmed out to other trusts further afield – meaning decisions regarding provisions at the DGH and its sister hospital in Hastings could potentially be made by people from outside of the county.

Staff have already contacted the Herald to report rock-bottom morale and mooted plans to downgrade the pay bands of nurses in a host of DGH departments have been met with a mix of both anger and frustration.

The Herald did ask for the stress absence figures for the entire last 12 months, but was told that results would only be made available from April onwards, as that was when East Sussex Healthcare came into being after a series of mergers made the previous East Sussex Hospitals Trust redundant.

NHS information officer Trish Richardson said to include absence levels from before April would ‘not give an accurate picture of the absence days,’.

Nevertheless, the findings were enough for local health campaigner Liz Walke to get her teeth into.

“This seems a massive amount and something needs to be done about it,” she told the Herald.

“The DGH does not seem a very happy place to work at the moment and the staff are being told their jobs are on the line and more savings need to be made which puts added pressure on them.

“The more time people have to take off due to stress the more pressure is put on the people who are left and in turn the more likely they are to need time off. It is a vicious circle which needs addressing. Staff are working hard under difficult circumstances.”

A spokesman for East Sussex Healthcare said: “The number of staff days taken off for stress or anxiety between April and October equates to half a percent of the total full-time staff days during that time.

“The trust has services available to help staff who maybe experiencing stress or anxiety in the workplace or in personal life.

“We have our own occupational health department that offers a counselling and psychology service and liaise with GPs.”