More than three million hours have been lost to staff illness at a north-east health board since 2016, new figures have revealed.
Over the last three years, almost 3.5 million hours have been lost due to sickness at NHS Grampian, according to numbers released under Freedom of Information legislation.
North-east Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles said: “These figures are shocking and highlight the extreme pressure on our local healthcare services.
“NHS Grampian has been the worst funded health board in Scotland for over a decade and the lack of resources will have had a huge impact on the ability of our hard-working staff to care for patients.
“It is no surprise at all that pressure and low morale will also have an impact on the number of days staff are ill and are forced to stay home.
“I have repeatedly called on the Scottish Government’s health secretary to act and put our health care in the north-east on an equal footing with the rest of Scotland, but my warnings have fallen on deaf ears.”
However, figures released by the Scottish Government show that the sickness absence in NHS Grampian has decreased from 5.1% in 2007 to 4.53% in 2019.
An NHS Grampian spokesman said: “In 2018-19 NHS Grampian had the second lowest absence rate of any territorial board in the country and the lowest on the mainland at 4.53% – well ahead of the Scottish average at 5.39%.
“Our absence rates are consistently better than the Scottish average and year on year it has improved by almost 1% as we strive to meet the national target of 4%.
“Although many jobs in the NHS come with an element of unavoidable pressure – for instance within our emergency department when dealing with trauma patients – we do not recognise claims of low morale being a cause of absence, and a recent anonymous staff survey, completed by nearly 11,000 employees, showed the vast majority of staff, nearly 84%, said they believed their manager cared about their health and wellbeing and more than 75% said they would recommend NHS Grampian as a good place to work.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The welfare of NHS staff is critically important. Every health board is required to have policies in place which comply with best practice on managing health at work, including mental health and wellbeing.
“Staffing levels have increased by 7.5% at NHS Grampian under this Government, with the sickness absence rate dropping over this same period.
“The rate of sickness absence in NHS Grampian is at its lowest in five years.”