SICK pay for staff at Halton and Warrington Hospitals has risen by nearly £1m in two years, according to new figures.

A Freedom of Information request to Warrington and Halton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust showed that the total cost of staff sickness increased from £4,392.953.23 to £5,252,854.05 between 2015/16 and 2017/18.

With staff sickness rates having increased by 0.4 per cent during that period, the trust has also highlight an increase in pay award as a contributing factor.

The FOI has also revealed the hospital departments with the highest absence rates, with the isotope unit coming on top with 33 per cent.

Absence rates among acute medical staff stood at 24 per cent and 16 per cent in both management and A&E emergency nurse practitioners.

WHH pointed to a number of health and wellbeing programmes run to keep staff sickness rates down – including having trained mental health first aiders as well as physiotherapy and counselling services.

Director of human resources and organisation development Michelle Cloney said: “The staff absence rate for the trust has increased by 0.4 per cent, from 4.52 per cent in June 2015 to May 2016 to 4.92 per cent in June 2017 to May 2018 - the increase in costs for the period is due to both sickness absence and pay award increases applied during the same time period.

“The health and wellbeing of our staff is our priority and we invest in multiple ongoing programmes to support staff suffering from ill health as well as preventing absences occurring.”