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The problem and management of sickness absence in the NHS: considerations for nurse managers


C.J. Johnson
Research Nurse
Institute of Occupational Health
The University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


Aim  This paper examines the topic of sickness absence management in the context of the healthcare sector.

Background  National Health Service (NHS) employee absenteeism is an expensive and difficult problem. Nurse managers need to assess the extent and characteristics of absenteeism, be aware of their organization's sickness policies, evaluate the effectiveness of these policies and contribute to the development of related initiatives to ensure prudent management of sickness absence.

Method  A literature review has been undertaken, providing a broad conceptual context by which the problem of sickness absence in the NHS can be examined. The focus of this paper is to examine the accumulation of research based knowledge to provide a healthcare perspective on the problem of sickness absence management.

Conclusion  Sickness absence management within the NHS is challenging but provides opportunities to improve the working lives of NHS employees. Sickness absence cannot be eradicated but it can be reduced by a selection of measures that reflect the uniqueness of the NHS. The many and diverse causes of sickness absence need acknowledgement, when devising strategies that can effectively provide solutions to the problems of sickness absence.