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This statistical release presents information about sickness absence of staff in the NHS in Wales. New information is shown for the quarter ended 30 September 2020, which includes the first summer of the coronavirus pandemic. Data for April to June 2020 has been revised.

In response to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, additional and timelier management information is collected on sickness absence. It is not collected on the same basis as that published in this quarterly release, and therefore the figures will differ.

The management information suggests that a daily average of around 2,650 (2.7%) staff were self-isolating over the quarter ended 30 September 2020, with the number decreasing each month to an average of under 2,000 during September itself. The pausing of shielding in mid-August is likely to be the cause of this reduction as those shielding are included in the self-isolating count. Some of these staff will have been working from home. Information on coronavirus and NHS activity and capacity is published in a weekly update.

Clinically extremely vulnerable staff on the shielding list, and therefore not in work due to that, are included in the self-isolating count. In these official statistics, NHS staff who are self-isolating or shielding are not counted as being off sick, and are therefore not included in these quarterly sickness absence statistics. The official statistics should continue to be considered the authoritative source of data on sickness absence in the NHS in Wales.

The data is sourced from the NHS Electronic Staff Record provided by Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW).

Data included in this release is published on StatsWales.

1. Main points

  • Sickness absence was 5.1%, down 0.3 percentage points compared to the quarter ending September 2019.
  • After a gradual fall during 2015 to 2017, the average has been rising and was 5.9% over the last year, mainly due to the increase in the April to June 2020 quarter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Swansea Bay local health board had the highest sickness absence rate, 6.2%.
  • Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) had the lowest sickness absence rate, 1.2%.
  • The staff group with the highest sickness absence rate was Healthcare Assistants and other Support Workers, 7.3%.
  • The staff group with the lowest sickness absence rate was Medical and Dental staff, 1.4%.

2. Trends in the sickness absence rate

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Line chart showing the actual monthly sickness rate for the NHS in Wales, along with a 12 month moving average. These show monthly variations between 4.6% and 7.5% but the 12 month moving average only ranges from 5.1% to 6.0%.

Sickness absence shows wide seasonal variation throughout the year with the rate lower in summer and higher in winter. To provide clearer information on long term changes to the rate of sickness absence a 12 month moving average is shown in Chart 1. The chart shows the 12 month moving average has gone down slightly in recent months (following a high of 6.0% in the 12 months ending June 2020) with the average for the 12 months ending September 2020 being 5.9%.

The chart also shows that the sickness absence rate for April 2020 is the highest recorded monthly rate (7.5%); given the timing this is more than likely attributed to COVID-19. Those NHS staff self-isolating, which includes shielding staff, are not counted as being off sick and are therefore not included in these sickness absence rates. Monthly sickness absence rates by NHS organisation and staff group can be found on StatsWales.

3. Sickness absence rate by NHS organisation

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Data for the July - September quarter of 2020 shows a Wales average of 5.1%, ranging across the organisations from 1.2% in Health Education & Improvement Wales to 6.2% in Swansea Bay Local Health Board.

Swansea Bay local health board had the highest sickness absence (6.2%) of all NHS organisations this quarter, with the lowest rate being in Health Education and Improvement Wales (1.2%).

Swansea Bay had the highest sickness absence (6.2%) of all local health boards (LHBs) for the quarter ended 30 September 2020, with the lowest rate being in Powys (4.4%).

The staff sickness rate was lower in all but two of the eleven organisations in the June to September 2020 quarter compared to the previous year, the exception being Swansea Bay LHB where the rate was higher; and the rate in Powys remained the same.

Data for all organisations is available on StatsWales.

4. Sickness absence rate by staff group

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Data for the July to September quarter of 2020 shows a Wales sickness absence rate of 5.1%, ranging across the staff groups from 1.4% in medical and dental to 7.3% among healthcare assistants and support workers. The July to September 2020 rate decreased in all staff groups compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

Of the six staff groups, Healthcare Assistants and Support Workers had the highest sickness absence rate this quarter (7.3%).

Medical and Dental staff had the lowest sickness absence rate for this quarter (1.4%) and has done so since data started to be collected in 2009.

The staff sickness rate was lower in all staff groups in the July to September 2020 quarter compared to the previous year.

Data for all staff groups is available on StatsWales.

5. Quality and methodology information

The data is sourced from the NHS Electronic Staff Record provided by Health Education and Improvement Wales. Further information is available in the quality report.

Well-being of Future Generations Act

The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of Wales. The Act puts in place seven wellbeing goals for Wales. These are for a more equal, prosperous, resilient, healthier and globally responsible Wales, with cohesive communities and a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language. Under section (10)(1) of the Act, the Welsh Ministers must (a) publish indicators ('national indicators') that must be applied for the purpose of measuring progress towards the achievement of the wellbeing goals, and (b) lay a copy of the national indicators before the National Assembly. The 46 national indicators were laid in March 2016.

Information on the indicators, along with narratives for each of the well-being goals and associated technical information is available in the Well-being of Wales report.

Further information on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The statistics included in this release could also provide supporting narrative to the national indicators and be used by public services boards in relation to their local wellbeing assessments and local wellbeing plans.

Next update

12 May 2021

6. Contact details

Statistician: Bethan Sherwood
Telephone: 0300 025 6735
Email: stats.healthinfo@gov.wales 

Media: 0300 025 8099

SFR 40/2021

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