AMBULANCE staff are taking more days off sick than others working in the health service, figures suggest.

A total of 68,794 days were lost to sickness within West Midlands Ambulance Service during 2012/13, meaning just over five per cent per cent of staff were off sick on any average day.

At Worcestershire Health and Care Trust, which runs community hospitals, 51,579 days were lost to sickness, a rate of just over four per cent, while at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Worcestershire Royal Hospital, 67,516 days were lost to sickness, a rate of almost per cent.

The figures, published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), show a similar trend nationally.

The average sickness rate for ambulance staff in the last year is 6.05 per cent, compared with 4.24 per cent for staff across the entire English health service.

The data suggests that qualified ambulance staff in England were absent from work because of illness for an average of 14.7 days during 2012/13.

For all of the 1.05 million full-time NHS staff in England, the average time off sick was 9.5 days –- a slight rise from 9.3 days in 2011/12. A West Midlands Amb-ulance Service spokesman said: “West Midlands Ambulance Ser-vice consistently reports some of the lowest sickness rates amongst ambulance services nationally.

“Due to the nature of the work that our staff carry out, there is always a higher risk of injury than in other parts of the health service.”

She said the health and wellbeing of staff is of “paramount importance”

and that several initiatives are in place to keep them fit and well.

“A key area that the trust has focused on is musculoskeletal disorders, as this is one of the most commonly seen complaints.

As part of this on-going initiative staff are provided with additional manual handling training each year,” she added.

The data also suggests that the higher paid the NHS worker, the fewer sick days they are likely to take.

Nationally, hospital doctors were absent because of sickness for an average of 2.8 days while nurses, midwives and health visitors took 10.6 days off sick.

Sue Covill, director of employment services at the NHS Employers organisation, said: “The significant pressures of a long cold winter, organisational restructuring and challenging expectations place additional pressures on staff and these are reflected in some of the figures. Employers will be exploring in detail why sickness absence has risen slightly and exploring how best to support their staff in the light of challenges faced.

“It is important to put these figures in perspective.

“Major staff groups, including nurses, are taking less sick-leave now than at the beginning of the decade, and systems to support their health and wellbeing have undeniably improved.”