More Great Western Hospital staff are taking sick days due to stress.

The latest NHS Digital figures show there were 6,500 days lost due to staff absences in Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in February.

Of these, 1,400 were due to anxiety, stress, depression or other psychiatric illnesses, which accounted for 22 per cent of staff sick days and was the most reported reason for sick leave.

It was up from 19 per cent in February the year before, and from 20 per cent in 2019.

Across England, anxiety, stress, depression and other psychiatric illnesses accounted for over 545,100 days lost and 26 per cent of all sickness absences in February - up from 25 per cent the year before and 23 per cent in 2019.

Alex Baylis from the King's Fund health tank said: "This is just another wake up call to the NHS, because we are seeing exactly the same sort of trends when you look at reasons for people leaving the NHS.

“What we think is important is not just focusing on supporting individuals but looking at what these systemic, underlying drivers of these levels of stress and burnout.

"That means really listening to staff and being prepared to put in place fundamental changes where needed to address this, rather than normalise it and carrying on with these constant warning signs we are getting."

The figures also show the overall sickness absence rate for England was five per cent, and four per cent at GWH.

The Nuffield Trust said high sickness absence is detrimental to staff and patient care.

Senior fellow Billy Palmer said: "The NHS has a duty of care to its workforce, and this high level of stress among staff also points to some troubling future retention issues.

"Given high sickness absence levels and poor retention are both causes of and caused by increased pressure of services, the NHS risks being stuck in a vicious cycle."

He added absence rates relate to factors including job satisfaction, workload and socioeconomic status, so multiple solutions will be needed to solve the levels of sickness absence.

A spokesperson for Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “The very nature of a career in healthcare means that while it is often extremely rewarding, there are occasions when our dedicated staff are faced with difficult and emotional situations, which can sometimes take its toll.

“Whilst the trust’s staff sickness rate for stress-related leave is lower than the national average, and we have seen less staff off with stress in the months since February, we monitor the situation carefully so that we can evaluate the effectiveness of the measures we have in place and take steps to minimise the impact on our staff.

“The trust offers a robust 24/7 health and wellbeing package for all staff, which includes counselling, trauma management, financial advice and bereavement support.

“Our occupational health and wellbeing team, and round-the-clock employee assistance colleagues, provide support to any staff member who needs it, as well as working with managers to ensure healthy work-life balances and other group wellbeing opportunities.”

An NHS spokesperson said mental health support is available for staff, including access to confidential support services, coaching, and flexible working options.

They added "there is more to do" to ensure NHS staff feel comfortable asking for help, saying: "That is why the NHS is strengthening our occupational health services and reviewing our mental health offer for staff to ensure everyone working in the NHS has the right support they need."