Wales politics

Priority health treatment for NHS staff suggested by Tories

Image caption The ambulance service's absence levels were the highest in the Welsh NHS

The Welsh Government should investigate whether to give Welsh NHS staff priority treatment due to high sickness levels, the Conservatives have said.

Some 5.3% of Welsh NHS staff were absent from January to March 2016, down from 5.6% in the same period in 2015.

The ambulance service recorded the highest absence levels - remaining at 7.8% in both sets of statistics.

Ministers said sickness absence rates had fallen, but they were "not averse" to considering the Tory suggestion.

The Conservatives said the data showed each NHS employee losing the equivalent of one working day a month to sickness.

Welsh Conservative health spokeswoman Angela Burns said staff were "bearing the brunt of an NHS creaking at the seams" due to poor funding, understaffing, a lack of integration between health and social service and "ever-rising demand".

"The Labour-led Welsh Government needs to up their investment in frontline services and take urgent action to improve recruitment and retention initiatives," Ms Burns said.

She also suggested a "feasibility study into prioritising treatment for NHS staff, particularly those suffering from chronic orthopaedic and skeletal conditions".

"The quicker their problems can be addressed, the sooner they can get back to work. The NHS cannot be healthy without a healthy workforce," Ms Burns added.

The Welsh Government said its health budget was larger than ever, with health and social services receiving an extra £1.1bn over the last two years.

A spokesman added: "We're not averse to considering whether treatment could be prioritised for NHS staff, however it's important to recognise the sickness absence rate in the NHS in Wales has decreased when compared to the same period the previous year.

"NHS Wales is taking action to support staff and reduce sickness rates, this includes participating in our corporate health standard initiative, which aims to develop healthy workplaces and promote the health and well-being of staff."

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