The NHS is a "dinosaur" when it comes to levels of staff sickness absence, with rates 50% higher than in the private sector, a thinktank has said.
Reform said the NHS should learn from private companies about how to reduce sickness absence, and claims it could save £1bn a year if it does so. It accused the NHS of setting a poor example of employee health and said the health service cost of sickness absence was an annual £3bn.
The report urged the government to encourage businesses to stay healthy and get fit. It said some employers were already engaged in a "revolution" in healthcare, with firms helping staff take more exercise and eat healthy food.
The report said: "The whole idea of public health should change to personal health, with the aim of making individuals responsible for their own health. New ideas to achieve this include a greater use of charges for NHS healthcare and bonuses for healthy living."
Andrew Haldenby, Reform's director, said: "Government is a dinosaur in the evolving world of better health. In the recession ... the out-of-date practices of most NHS organisations impose costs that the nation can ill afford."