SICKNESS rates among NHS staff have almost doubled in a year - amid talk of ‘burnout’ forcing retirement due to the pandemic - according to concerning new figures.

The report from NHS Digital reveals that in December, the sickness absence rate among staff working across Barnsley’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) - which plans and monitors frontline healthcare services in the borough - was 2.85 per cent of the 144 staff employed.

Those roles include professionally qualified clinical staff, hospital and community health service doctors, nurses, therapeutic staff, infrastructure and management.

A year prior, in December 2020, the absence rate was 1.57 per cent, and the latest figure is the highest in two years since December 2019’s 2.91 per cent.

Staffing levels at Barnsley CCG have fallen through the last year, from 154 in March, but have otherwise been on an upward trend since 2013.

The figures show Barnsley Hospital’s rate is also the highest in almost a year, at 6.28 per cent of 4,066 staff.

Senior councillors on Barnsley Council’s overview and scrutiny committee discussed a wide-ranging report on a recently-established ‘place-based partnership’ last week which sets out the scale of issues facing services in the borough.

One of the most discussed issues affecting the care sector has been staffing - both retention and recruitment - which has caused knock-on effects, particularly to local mental health services.

The report said ‘close monitoring’ of staff was ongoing to understand their health and wellbeing needs, but that it was ‘important’ to continue paying attention to these amid the move to the new model.

“There are high levels of staff absence due to Covid and infection prevention and control measures continue to put additional strain on the workforce and estate,” it said.

“Employers across our health and care system are seeing higher levels of burnout and more colleagues accessing support services but more still who would benefit.

“Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and South West Yorkshire Partnership Foundation Trust (SWYPFT) have reported higher numbers of staff retiring in the latter part of 2021/22.

“In some cases, these are colleagues who have delayed retirement to support the pandemic response, but some retirements are reportedly because of burnout.

“Through the next stage it is important that organisations pay attention to how people are feeling, recovering, and responding to the next set of challenges.

“Close monitoring of staff turnover is taking place to develop appropriate plans to support retention and recruitment of staff and already positive work has taken place to support staff’s health and wellbeing including better access to support including counsellors.”

The CCG is set to be ‘abolished’ under ambitious new plans to create integrated health and social care in Barnsley.

The new partnership - between Barnsley CCG, the council, NHS trusts, and voluntary services including Barnsley Hospice - will usher in a new statutory Integrated Care Board (ICB) in July and then a further Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) aimed at addressing ‘wider health, public health, and social care needs’ in September.