Stress, depression, and other mental health problems are the main cause of sick days for NHS staff at the North West Anglia Foundation Trust.
Figures from NHS Digital show staff at the trust, which runs Peterborough City, Stamford and Rutland and Hinchingbrooke hospitals, took 79,253 days of sick leave between December 2017 and November 2018.
Of these, 15,401 – more than one in six – were because of stress, anxiety, depression or other psychiatric illnesses.
Across the country, mental health sick days accounted for almost a quarter of all absences over the same period – nearly 4.2 million days in total.
Describing the national picture Helga Pile, deputy head of health at the public sector union Unison, said: “Chronic staff shortages mean NHS employees are routinely being asked to do more with fewer resources as they desperately try to keep the service afloat.
“The Government urgently needs to invest in the NHS to cut staff shortages and reduce burn-out, and workers suffering anxiety, depression and stress must get rapid access to mental health support services.”
According to a survey carried out by the mental health charity Mind, more than half of workers across all industries say they are affected by poor mental health in their workplace.
Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at the charity, said it was important for employers to support struggling employees and tackle work-related causes of mental health problems – including in the NHS.
She said: “We know there can be particular barriers for healthcare staff when disclosing a mental health problem to their employer, such as fears about being deemed unfit to practice.
“Those of us with mental health problems can and do make a valuable contribution to the workplace, it just means some of us might need extra support from time to time.
“Healthcare staff can make a real difference to the experiences of people accessing NHS services.
“Attracting and keeping hold of the right workforce, with the right skills, is central to achieving the NHS long term plan’s ambition to improving services.”
A spokesman for NHS England said: “We are committed to ensuring that all NHS employers take care of their staff, offering support, good occupational health, flexible working and a range of other measures.
“Staff are the lifeblood of the NHS and we are already offering the most comprehensive national mental health support offer to doctors of any health system in the world and are committed to doing similarly with other staff groups.”