THE average number of sick days taken by staff at Barnsley Hospital has risen by 60 per cent in two years - partly because of stress.

Figure show the number has risen from an average of ten days per year, to 16 days per year.

Hilary Brearley, director of human resources and organisational development for Barnsley Hospital, said sickness levels had risen mainly because of 'increased levels of work-related stress and an increase in musculoskeletal problems' which can affect muscles and joints.

She added: "Our sickness levels are higher than we would want them to be and we're working hard to reduce them.

"We're taking action to help staff with stress. For example in January we're providing training for staff on resilience and how to cope better with work pressures, and we have also introduced in-house counselling for staff who need it.

"We have also introduced an in-house physiotherapy service for staff with musculoskeletal problems such as back pain."

She said there had been discussions about whether or not to pay staff for the first few sick days, and although it was decided not to implement this action now, it may be looked at in the future.

A new sickness policy had been launched aimed at helping to give staff more support to get back to work sooner and helping managers to monitor and manage sick leave more closely.