Hospital staff were off ill because they were ‘stressed out’ by having to move.
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon was told the switch to the showpiece £300m Forth Valley Royal in Larbert was one reason for sickness levels at NHS Forth Valley being higher than the national average.
Helen Kelly, the director of human resources, explained: “It was like moving house and led to higher levels of stress and tiredness.
‘‘It was a major project and research shows that, during periods of major change, staff sickness levels can increase. Although we worked hard to support staff during the transition, there is no doubt that moving to a new location and different working environment can be stressful.
“While we have seen a slight increase in absence following the transition period, we expect this to reduce in the months ahead. Tackling sickness absence remains a key priority.
‘‘We already have comprehensive absence management policies and introduced new arrangements to help manage long term sickness.”
Ms Sturgeon posed the question when she chaired NHS Forth Valley’s annual review. After being given her answer, she said: “I understand that, however I am concerned about the figures. I hear what you are saying, but it’s important we have these targets and you have to keep a close eye on them.”
The Scottish Government has set its health boards an absence target of four per cent. Sickness levels at NHS Forth Valley were 5.1 per cent in March and 4.7 per cent in April. The absence rate in March 2010 was 5.3 per cent and in April that year 4.6.
Before the review meeting on Monday, the Health Secretary met staff and patients at its new Acute Assessment Unit, which provides rapid diagnosis and treatment for patients suffering from conditions including chest pain, abdominal pain and severe asthma.”
She said: “This is a fantastic new facility and a clear demonstration of how NHS Scotland delivers high quality patient care. Forth Valley Royal Hospital shows what can be achieved through an integrated package of investment to deliver modern, high quality services.
‘‘It has been an exciting year for NHS Forth Valley and this is an opportunity for me to hear about all the improvements being delivered as well as giving the public the chance to help shape future service delivery.”
Chairman of the board Ian Mullen said: “This meeting not only allows us to review performance but gives local people the chance to ask questions and find out more about our services.
‘‘This is particularly important this year because, following the completion of the Forth Valley Royal Hospital, we have transformed the way we deliver health-care.”