We are all familiar with that situation where you have a nagging health issue or sudden onset of symptoms and the first port of call is your GP. But for many of us, that feeling comes with an inevitable sense of dread as the battle to get an appointment begins.

It’s not uncommon for patients to be told that they need to wait a week or two to be seen face to face by a GP. Many practices are now operating a phone appointment system first and foremost to filter out urgent cases. This protracted system is filled with uncertainty and can exacerbate any concerns associated with our illness. With mental health one of the most common reasons for people seeking GP support, any stumbling blocks to help can prove damaging and even dangerous.

Waiting for the Doctor

Analysis of NHS figures shows that 30% of full-time employees are dissatisfied with GP waiting times. In addition, nearly half (44%) of those full-time employees surveyed said that they were “always” or “regularly” least likely to see their preferred GP when they wanted to. 7% of those who work more than 30 hours a week decided not to even make an appointment after calling their GP surgery, with half saying there were not any appointments available for the time or the day that they wanted.

Good physical and mental health has a direct and tangible impact on workplace productivity. It is a given that any employee in physical pain or feeling so stressed, anxious and depressed that they have sought professional help will not be able to concentrate as well as usual during the working day. UK workplace productivity continues to decrease as employees are left with no choice but to wait for an appointment, potentially meaning symptoms grow worse and recovery is delayed with a speedy return to the workplace left hanging in the balance.

The Rise of Private Health Insurance

On the flip side of this ever-more depressing state of affairs with the NHS, the private health insurance market has never been stronger. We discussed the benefits of value-added services at length in a recent blog post. Early intervention is now a key and very necessary provision included within many private policies. And this type of support is sorely needed especially with regards to mental health issues, i.e. one of the highest causes of workplace absenteeism.

In 2018, the UK saw its highest suicide rate since 2002 which means the importance of prevention cannot be underestimated. Group risk products such as critical illness cover and private healthcare are positioned to provide a holistic support structure by offering relief through both financial protection and emotional, practical and specialist support from the pre-diagnosis stages through to post-recovery. Those with private health insurance may also gain access to specialist doctors as well as rehabilitation in both a physical and mental capacity.

Investing in Health

It is up to employers to make the decision to invest in their staff health and wellbeing and make the most of the diverse portfolio of products available. This will also ease the burden on the NHS and give those in need access to support more quickly and more effectively across the board.

One of the most important current developments in private mental health support has come from practical, medical and emotional support service RedArc, who have recently added a mental health department to their offering. Designed to tailor their service more finely, respond to an increased demand for mental health support and improve patient outcomes, the team includes nurses with specialist knowledge and experience in areas including dementia, trauma, substance misuse and care of the elderly.

With RedArc’s services available via select critical illness, income protection and health insurance policies, it is up to the employer to recognise the importance of this benefit and choose their policies appropriately. Insurers are continually working to improve the speed of access to advice and offering increasingly tailored services to suit different types of client. This is all good news for employers thanks to an increasingly vast range of products becoming available to their team more and more quickly with insurers adapting their approach to fit the needs of today’s workforce.

As the stigma around mental illness and health continues to be broken down, and we all work together to improve awareness of access, we can expect an even higher level of demand from stressed and depressed employees seeking tailored support. Those employers who provide the support will see clear benefits in recruitment, retention and employee loyalty, to name just a few.

Improving the Nation

Today’s working environment is more pressurised than ever, and many employees are neglecting their all-round health and wellness. The annual ‘FIT-SE’ Index, commissioned by AXA PPP healthcare and launched as part of its Flying Start campaign shows that four million UK employees – that’s one-third (29%) of the UK’s workforce – do no exercise at all with the most common reasons cited including lack of time and feeling too tired after work to even think about it.

Yet we all know that exercise is a great stress-reliever and a way of boosting productivity both within and beyond the workplace. The annual ‘FIT-SE’ Index also showed that the number of workers who view exercise as a way of improving mental health grew by 20%. Employers must use every opportunity to capitalise on this knowledge and encourage their team to take effective steps towards improving their health.

National Fitness Day is approaching on the 25th of this month with plenty of helpful initiatives and ideas on how to get employees motivated and excited about physical exercise but we still have a way to go to make health a priority instead of an option. Companies can play an active and vital role in supporting their employees to live healthy lives, with group risk products improving access to support thereby breaking down one of the toughest barriers.

For more information on how private health insurance can benefit you and your team, get in touch with our Vintage Health advisers today via email at info@vintagehealth.co.uk or give us a call on 020 8371 5240.