Stressed NHS staff are being offered free yoga and pilates classes in a bid to stop them taking days off sick.
Ikea-style arrows will also be painted on the floor of a hospital to encourage staff to take regular walks instead of sitting down on their breaks.
Medics will be offered exercise in a bid to lower stress levels – after each employee took an average of 15 sickies a year at one hospital trust.
More than 220 employees have already used a free in-house physiotherapy service at the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Stoke University Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs.
The measures have been introduced after staff took 139,446 days off sick last year – an average of 15 days off for every employee.
Stewart Robinson, branch secretary of UNISON, said: “The pilates sessions and physiotherapy are a good idea and the trust also has walking routes so people can walk around the hospital on their breaks as well as a cycle-to-work scheme to encourage exercise.
“The walking routes are good because we encourage staff to take a break, whether that is going for a walk or even going to the canteen.
“I am all for encouraging employees to exercise.
“Sickness levels have been high and people who stand up for most of the day, which is the case with the majority of workers here, can have problems with their back and things like yoga, pilates, and physiotherapy will help that.”
North Staffordshire Healthwatch coordinator Ian Syme said: “Offering members of staff yoga and other types of exercise is an exceptional idea because it will help them a lot.
“There are a lot of ways to get through life without being driven to pharmaceutical drugs and the staff will benefit.
“Working in the NHS today can be incredibly stressful, more so mentally than physically now.
“Anything that helps relieve stress without the use of drugs is something I support, particularly in the NHS where the workload can be quite mentally challenging and incredibly high.”
A hospital spokesman said: “We receive the data about sickness every quarter so it is difficult to see at this time how much effect it has had.
“All we can say at the moment is that the physiotherapy is going well and has been used by more than 220 workers.”
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