THE number of sick days taken by hospital staff in East Lancashire has risen sharply.

Staff at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust missed 133,769 days because of illness in the 2018/19 financial year, an average of 16 days each.

That was up from 97,511 in 2009/10, according to the NHS figures.

It meant 4.76 per cent of all possible staff days were lost during the 12 months – although that is down from 5.05 per cent in 2009/10.

In total, the trust has employed an average of 8,250 staff during the last 12 months.

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said the pressure staff were under was a big factor.

He said: “The biggest reason is the stress of the job.

“Staff do a fantastic job with the resources they have but they need more support and funding to help them out.”

Trust chiefs blamed pressures the NHS is under which has left staff seeing more patients. They also said that staff numbers have risen which has meant that rates of sickness have remained quite static.

Kate Quinn, acting director for human resources and organisational development at the trust, said: “Although the number of sickness days has risen, so too has the number of people we employ so rates have actually remained quite static.

“While our sickness absence figures are higher than we’d like, it should be said that every day 95 per cent of our staff come to work and do a fantastic job in providing safe, personal and effective care for patients, often in very challenging circumstances.

Ms Quinn said more than 2,500 of the trust’s staff had no sickness in the last 12 months.

She added: “We attach great importance to the health and wellbeing of our employees and recognise the significant impact that sickness absence and reduced productivity due to health related issues can have on staff morale and the delivery of high quality patient care.

“As a considerate employer, we have a number of initiatives which are showing success in supporting our employees to stay in work, reducing levels of sickness absence and the costs associated with it.”