Changing patterns of sickness absence among healthcare workers in England during the COVID-19 pandemic

Edge, Rhiannon and van der Plaat, Diana and Parsons, Vaughan and Coggon, David and van Tongeren, Martie and Muiry, Rupert and Madan, Ira and cullinan, Paul (2021) Changing patterns of sickness absence among healthcare workers in England during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Public Health. ISSN 1741-3842

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Abstract

Abstract Background Patterns of sickness absence shed useful light on disease occurrence and illness-related behaviours in working populations. Methods We analysed prospectively collected, pseudonymized data on 959 356 employees who were continuously employed by National Health Service trusts in England from 1 January 2019 to 31 July 2020, comparing the frequency of new sickness absence in 2020 with that at corresponding times in 2019. Results After exclusion of episodes directly related to COVID-19, the overall incidence of sickness absence during the initial 10 weeks of the pandemic (March–May 2020) was more than 20% lower than in corresponding weeks of 2019. Trends for specific categories of illness varied substantially, with a fall by 24% for cancer, but an increase for mental illness. A doubling of new absences for pregnancy-related disorders during May–July of 2020 was limited to women with earlier COVID-19 sickness absence. Conclusions Various factors will have contributed to the large and divergent changes that were observed. The findings reinforce concerns regarding delays in diagnosis and treatment of cancers and support a need to plan for a large backlog of treatment for many other diseases. Further research should explore the rise in absence for pregnancy-related disorders among women with earlier COVID-19 sickness absence.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Public Health
Additional Information:
This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Public Health following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Rhiannon Edge, Diana A van der Plaat, Vaughan Parsons, David Coggon, Martie van Tongeren, Rupert Muiry, Ira Madan, Paul Cullinan, Changing patterns of sickness absence among healthcare workers in England during the COVID-19 pandemic, Journal of Public Health, 2021;, fdab341, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdab341 is available online at:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/2700
Subjects:
ID Code:
160551
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
05 Oct 2021 13:10
Refereed?:
Yes
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
06 Oct 2021 08:30