NHS staff are to be offered physiotherapy, counselling and Zumba classes as part of a drive to cut absence rates.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has said creating healthy workplaces is "no longer a nice-to-have, it's a must-do".

He announced the move as part of a raft of measures aimed at cutting the NHS bill for staff sickness, which stands at £2.4 billion a year.

The drive, backed by £5 million of funding, will target 1.3 million workers and includes an occupational health service for GPs suffering from burnout and stress.

Some hospitals in Sussex have already introduced similar schemes for their staff.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust used a legacy donation and charity funding to to set up a range of services.

These include physiotherapy and counselling, but also courses on emotional wellbeing, weight management, pilates, yoga and Zumba dance fitness.

Staff were also offered a chance to try singing in a choir.

Other work includes promoting healthy activities including lunchtime walks and cycling to work.

In a speech in Manchester Mr Stevens said NHS organisations must serve healthier food, promote exercise, reduce stress and provide regular health checks.

The checks will focus on mental health and musculoskeletal problems - the two biggest causes of sickness absence across the NHS.

He said: “NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country.

“When it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order.

"At a time when arguably the biggest operational challenge facing hospitals is converting overspends on temporary agency staff into attractive flexible permanent posts, creating healthy and supportive workplaces is no longer a nice-to-have, it's a must-do.”

Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: "The health and wellbeing of NHS staff at work has a direct impact on patients and this initiative rightly starts recognising that.

"Addressing physical and mental health issues is important and a step in the right direction as it will help tackle some of the major causes of stress at work.

"NHS staff experience some of the highest levels of stress and violence in the country and this can no longer be tolerated."