STAFF absence due to stress, anxiety and depression at the Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust shot up during the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

Statistics released by the Trust, which runs Leighton Hospital, Victoria Infirmary and Elmhurst Intermediate Care Centre, show almost 5,000 days were lost to health workers feeling stressed, anxious or depressed across April and May.

The rise, which coincides with a surge in coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths, constitutes an increase of more than 50 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

Absences for these reasons remained around 25 per cent above 2019 levels throughout the summer, before going back to ‘normal’ levels in September.

Northwich Guardian:

Graph showing the number of days workers missed at the Mid Cheshire Hospitals Trust due to stress, depression or anxiety

However, the recent resurgence in cases, hospital admissions and deaths suggests health workers will come under similar strain during the winter.

UNISON, the largest healthcare trade union in the UK, expressed concern about the statistics and called upon the Government to do more to recognise the efforts of health workers across the country.

David McKnight, the union’s north west regional organiser, said: “Staff have been pushed to the limit by the pandemic, so it’s no surprise they’re feeling ground down and anxious.

“Infection rates are on the rise and exhausted staff are preparing to take on a second wave, with little tangible recognition from the Government.

“Ministers could easily give staff a boost by giving them an early and substantial pay rise. All health workers should be properly rewarded for the work they’re doing to protect us.”

The Trust acknowledged the pressure its staff are under, but said it is doing all it can to support them.

A spokesperson said: “All our staff, whether on the frontline, in the community or behind the scenes, have worked incredibly hard throughout challenging and changing circumstances.

“The health and wellbeing of our staff is a top priority, particularly during this unprecedented time, and we have a comprehensive programme in place to support our colleagues. This has grown over recent months and we continue to explore opportunities to better support staff.

“As well as the pressures working in the NHS can bring, our staff are representative of the community we serve, and have been affected by coronavirus in the same way as the public.

“We would like to thank them for their dedication and resilience, as well as for the robust plans that have been put in place to ensure that we are prepared for any further increase in coronavirus cases.”

The Trust went on to outline some of the support available to staff, including counselling, mental health first aiders, staff wellbeing rooms, outdoor areas and access to mindfulness and resilience training sessions.