SOARING pressures within the health service have forced struggling NHS staff to take more than 100,000 days off work due to mental ill-health since 2011, it has been claimed.
Calls have been made for urgent support for health workers as an investigation showed that 34,000 days were lost due to mental illness last year in Lothian – a rise of nearly 80 per cent since 2011 when just 19,000 days were lost.
People are given the right support but the problem is there is not enough of it.Tom Waterson
Clinical staff, such as doctors and nurses, accounted for 23,400 days last year.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume MSP, who helped to obtain the figures, said: “Doctors, nurses and other NHS staff are working under enormous pressure and these figures show just what a toll this is taking on their mental health.
“These figures are stark. Hundreds of thousands of days have been lost as a result of mental ill-health.
“This is putting real strain on services and costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.
“More importantly, failing to tackle mental ill-health in our NHS will impact on the many, many staff who are not getting the support they need.”
Mr Hume has previously called on the Scottish Government to increase the amount of money it spends on mental health services and demanded that mental health be given parity with physical health.
He added: “Our NHS does fantastic work every day of the year to keep people healthy.
“We cannot ignore the mental health of the NHS staff doing their best to keep us well.”
The Lothian figures made up almost a fifth of the national total as 575,000 days were lost during the three-year period across Scotland, according to the statistics obtained through freedom of information legislation.
Counselling services within NHS Lothian are hugely oversubscribed so staff can wait for up to six weeks for an appointment, said Tom Waterson, Lothian branch chair for Unison.
He said: “People are given the right support but the problem is there is not enough of it.
“We have a counselling service which is fantastic but unfortunately it is very oversubscribed.
“It’s a great service and the feedback from staff is always good but there is sadly just not enough of it.
“We have raised this a number of times with the NHS Lothian board and it is important to highlight the pressure this service is under.”
Mr Waterson said that staff were under extreme pressure at work but the problem could not be solely blamed on NHS Lothian as personal matters also played a part. He added: “Staff must be supported to do their jobs and to try to achieve a good work-life balance.”
An NHS Lothian spokesperson said: “The wellbeing of our staff is crucial in maintaining an effective and healthy workforce.
“We know our staff are now more comfortable than in the past at reporting stress and mental health problems and we have a range services, including confidential counselling, available to support them.”