Skip to main content
Creating a new NHS England: NHS England and NHS Digital merged on 1 February 2023. More about the merger.

Publication, Part of

NHS Sickness Absence Rates May 2020, Provisional Statistics

Official statistics

Page contents


NHS Sickness Absence statistics are compiled from data recorded on the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) system as part of the day to day activities in running NHS organisations. They are published monthly, quarterly and annually and provided details by staff group, type of organisation, and sickness absence reason, with additional detail included in the annual releases.

The NHS workforce is extremely diverse in terms of occupations and skills compared with many other public sector employers. For instance, NHS work is often physically and psychologically demanding which increases the risk of illness and injury. The NHS is also one of few organisations that operate 24 hour services, for 365 days a year.

We work closely with NHS trusts to improve the quality, completeness and coverage of the data submitted, but responsibility for data accuracy lies with the providing organisations.


This data quality statement relates to all current NHS Sickness Absence Rates series (monthly, quarterly and annual). Any data quality issues specific to a particular release will be detailed in that publication.


The full list of NHS Sickness Absence Rates in this series can be accessed via the following link:


Data from 2004 to 2014 are published as a separate series, which is available here:

Initially there were two annual publications, 2004 and 2005 (with the 2004 publication also containing data for 2003). From April 2009-June 2009 there were regular quarterly publications until January 2014-March 2014. In addition, from August 2013 to February 2014, monthly releases were provided in the interim months between quarterly publications.


Data Source

The data source for Sickness Absence rates is the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) system. ESR is a payroll and human resources system which, since April 2008, contains staff records for all NHS employed staff with the exceptions of GPs, and those employed at Chesterfield Royal Hospital Foundation Trust (which is not on the ESR system). ESR replaced over 30 separate HR and payroll systems which were previously in use.


Recent responses to requests for additional analysis

Every month NHS Digital produces a range of additional work for customers that may be of interest to other users of NHS workforce statistics. This work is available on the NHS Digital Supplementary information webpage which is continually updated.


Revisions and Issues 

As expected with provisional statistics, some figures may be revised from month to month as issues are uncovered and resolved. Users are advised to always check our website for and use the latest published tables for their analyses



NHS Digital welcomes feedback on any aspect of the Sickness Absences releases. This can be sent to us via email at, quoting “NHS Sickness Absence statistics feedback” in the subject line.


Users and Uses 

This is important data as it is useful for NHS organisations as a tool for understanding NHS staff health and well-being in light of the Boorman Review (and independent review of the health and wellbeing of NHS staff in November 2008), and identifying appropriate benchmarks for sickness absence within their own organisations and staff groups. NHS organisations are able to access more detailed reports about sickness absence within their own organisations. As recommended in the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)’s response to the Boorman Review, organisations should make full use of the ESR's sickness absence reporting and monitoring functions to understand the health and well-being of their workforce. NHS stakeholders such as DHSC use this data - alongside NHS staff survey data - to evaluate changes in staff sickness absence and staff health and well-being.


Further Information

Further information is available at the following links:

NHS Occupation Codes 

NHS Workforce Staff Numbers 

Previous Absence Publications 

Last edited: 23 June 2021 4:24 pm