Staff stress levels rise at Mid Ulster hospitals

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There has been a rise in the amount of working hours lost due to stressed-out staff at local hospitals, including Antrim Area and Mid Ulster.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service had the highest percentage of hours lost due to psychological reasons, 1.95, followed by the Northern Trust at 1.67, which saw a three-fold increase in the figure.

The absences were blamed on work-related stress and anxiety, as well as non work-related stress and anxiety.

On a more positive note, the percentage of hours lost due to staff mental health problems in the Southern Trust, which includes South Tyrone Hosptial, is the lowest in Northern Ireland at 0.94, rising from 0.89 in 2015.

A spokesperson for the Northern Trust said: “Any employee, who reports that stress is having an impact on their health can self-refer or can be referred by their manager to Occupational Health.

“The Occupational Health Team in the Northern Trust which consists of nurses, physiotherapists, clinical psychologists and occupational health physicians, can assess any underlying health problems or health concerns. Occupational Health can then advise management and the employee on any health issues which have been identified, assessing their fitness for work and recommending ways to address their concerns relating to causes of stress.

“Occupational Health can also signpost to other areas of confidential support for staff, such as Inspire Workplace Counselling Services.

“The Northern Trust Organisation Development Team also offer a range of programmes which are available to all groups of staff to assist them in managing stress.”

Sickness across the crisis-hit Northern Ireland health service cost the economy more than £100m annually, figures released last year revealed.

It has led to warnings that the spiralling levels of sickness are putting an unbearable strain on the already struggling service.

In the latest warning sign of the crisis, a children’s ward at Ulster Hospital has been closed for almost four weeks due to high levels of staff sickness.