Move to refer ill staff to nurses cuts absence levels

Public sector bodies are increasingly referring staff to nurses
when they go off sick, rather than leaving matters to managers.

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), which is responsible for
council homes in Rochdale borough, has launched a scheme where,
instead of calling their manager when staff are unwell, they call a
specialist health advice service.

Staff can then speak to a nurse, who provides confidential
health advice, and advises on medical treatment. If the employee is
absent for some time, the nurse will remain in touch. The new
service will be available to all 640 RBH staff.

“We have reduced the levels of absence, but there is still a
need to improve,” said managing director, Paul Neate. “When staff
are off sick, it puts more pressure on their colleagues.

“We recognise that when staff are genuinely ill, they need
support and good advice rather than further pressure.”

When staff return from absence, they will still be interviewed
by their line manager. Where they have to take several absences
over a period of months, they will need to attend an interview with
a personnel officer to find out whether the absence is

The news comes after York Council announced it was to extend the
trial period for its sickness absence initiative where employees
telephone medically qualified occupational health nurses when

Despite a lack of support from trade unions, Ken Green, head of
personnel, said scepticism surrounding the scheme would disappear
over time. He cited a positive response from staff to a poll on the

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